Acupuncture & Tui Na for Arthritis

Chinese Tui Na Massage And Acupuncture For Arthritis

Arthritis of any kind is classified in Chinese medicine as ‘Bi Syndrome‘, where bi simply means ‘pain’. There are various kinds of Bi Syndrome, which vary depending on the exact symptoms, for instance Hot Bi where joints are hot and swollen which often corresponds with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Damp Bi which indicates an accumulation of fluid leading to swelling and pain which can correlate with osteoarthritis (OA).

There are other kinds of Bi syndrome such as Wind Bi, Cold Bi, Bone Bi and more, each with different symptoms and treatment strategies. This reflects the many kinds of joint and muscle pain which people experience – dull aches, sharp stabbing pain, hot or cold pain, constricting pain and so on.

There is a saying in Chinese Medicine ‘where there is pain there is no free flow, where there is free flow there is no pain‘ – this indicates that any kind of pain is caused by some kind of stagnation and a lack of circulation. The acupuncture treatment for arthritis is very effective at restoring ‘free flow’ and improving circulation, while Tui Na massage can help to keep the joints moving are relax tense muscles.

Used either on their own or together, acupuncture and tui na are fantastic treatments for arthritic pain. A few regular sessions may be needed at first, but once the pain is under control, maintenance treatments can be around once every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the individual.

The treatment of arthritis by acupuncture and/or tui na massage can reduce pain, deal with underlying problems and free the joints to restore movement. Additional treatments such as moxa to warm the area or cupping to stimulate blood flow may also help.

Research on Acupuncture For Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Portuguese researchers recently analysed thirteen randomised studies on acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis. The studies included a total of 974 patients. Ten of these studies showed statistically significant effects for acupuncture in relieving symptoms of RA compared with various controls.

Acupuncture showed benefit in the domains of pain relief, physical function and quality of life. Acupuncture combined with moxibustion was found to have significant immunomodulatory effects, and resulted in improvement in joint function equivalent to the effect of analgesic drugs. (Chin J Integr Med. 2018 Dec 19. doi: 10.1007/s11655-018-2914-x)


The longest and largest randomised, controlled phase III clinical trial of acupuncture ever conducted has found that acupuncture can significantly improve the symptoms of arthritis of the knee.

The study of 570 patients was carried out at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The patients were randomly assigned to receive 23 treatments of either true or sham (no actual insertion of needles) acupuncture or a 12-week knee osteoarthritis education course.

At the end of the study, the true acupuncture group had the greatest reduction (40%) in knee pain and the greatest improvement (nearly 40%) in knee function. (Ann Intern Med, Dec 2004; 141: 901-910.)

In addition, the charity Arthritis Research UK rate acupuncture as the most effective complementary therapy for treating osteoarthritis.

In my Bristol clinic I treat a number of people with arthritis, and I can see the difference it makes to them. Those who have been coming for some time are delighted and surprised to still be mobile and pain free many years later, and are often very acutely tuned-in to the effects of the treatments, so that they notice immediately if they miss an appointment or have to go longer than normal between ‘top ups’

For more information, feel free to get in touch