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Acupuncture and Gout

How Can Acupuncture and Herbs Treat Gout?

Drs. Li Zheng and Godfrey

Summary: Using allopurinol to treat gout can temporarily reduce the pain and swelling due to gout. However, long-term use of allopurinol can cause kidney problems. Combining acupuncture and herbal medicine has shown a long term beneficial effect to reduce the acute attack of gout and eventually get rid of gout as long as you are willing to change your diet and drink more water.

What is Gout?

Gout is a painful condition in which the affected joints are very swollen, red and painful. Gout is commonly classified as a form of arthritis. The pain felt can be in the knee, ankle, foot, hand, wrist, or elbow, although foot and hand joints tend to develop gout more frequently than other joints. Gout can affect anybody, both men and women.

Causes of Gout  

Aging has been recognized as a factor increasing occurrence of gout, but gout can affect men of any age. Women who have crossed beyond reproductive age are also more susceptible to gout. An increase of uric acid level in the blood causes deposition of monosodium urate crystals in joint spaces, triggering an inflammatory response that produces pain and often swelling. When people have kidney dysfunction, uric acid can accumulate in their joints, leading to gout. Traditionally, too much alcohol and meat were associated with gout. Now, purified fructose can be a major cause for gout because every processed food has purified fructose.

Problems faced due to gout

The quality of day-to-day life is a casualty in gout. Due to the debilitating effects, a person’s earning capacity is hampered. Gout becomes co-morbidity when a person already suffers from another ailment, such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. Also, gout can restrict the movement of the affected person. A gout patient can experience debilitating pain in his feet and knee. High uric acid can also damage kidney function, leading to kidney failure.

Conventional Treatment of Gout

Dietary restrictions are advised for patients suffering from gout. They are told to avoid the consumption of red meat, which is known to increase the level of uric acid. Consumption of protein-rich foods is strictly prohibited for gout patients.

Medicines are also prescribed for patients with gout. Patients are given anti-inflammatory and urate-lowering medications. Corticosteroids are also prescribed to relieve the pain and swelling.

Acupuncture and Gout

Non-pharmacological interventions are preferred because of the adverse side effects of medicines. Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM that has an analgesic effect that provides pain relief to the patient. Acupuncture corrects the flow of qi, essential life energy according to ancient Chinese medicine. It alleviates the pain and reduces swelling. The insertion of acupuncture needles also induces the production of endorphin, which can reduce the pain. Additionally, acupuncture can improve blood circulation and thereby help clear up the deposition of uric acid in the joints.

Research about acupuncture, herbs and gouty arthritis:

A recent study published in Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2021 by Dr. H. Liang and colleagues reviewed a total of 14 randomized controlled clinical trials. Their review indicated that acupuncture combined with herbal medicine was more effective than conventional treatment for gouty arthritis. The 14 clinical studies involved 1065 participants. Results indicated that the clinical symptoms were significantly improved in the group treated with acupuncture combined with herbal medicine compared with the medication group (colchicine). Uric acid levels were lowered more efficiently in the acupuncture-plus-herbal-medicine group compared to the medication group. Furthermore, acupuncture combined with herbal medicine was more effective than acupuncture alone or herbal medicine alone. Adverse effects were also much less in the acupuncture-plus-herbal-medicine group than in the colchicine group. Combining acupuncture with herbal medicine is especially important for patients with diabetes and heart problems because those patients have compromised blood circulation and kidney function. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help improve the circulation and organ functions.

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