Quantcast

Living with Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)

Ask an Acupuncturist


#1

Hi Y'all,

I am fairly new to this group, living with PsA for 12 loooong years.

I have been reticent about posting on the boards here, mostly because I have never really been a part of an online community (I'm not even on Facebook if you can imagine that) and even though I think of a lot of things to say, they never seem right when spelled out.

Anyway, I always appreciate the posts I see, and the amount of love and support that is here... it's really overwhelming.

So, with that in mind I am getting over my fears to chime in and let you all know that I am a licensed acupuncturist, and Board certified herbalist. I am not in any way interested in advertising my service or practice, but I am interested in offering myself as a resource for all of you if you ever have questions about that as a possible therapy for PsA.

For full disclosure, I managed my symptoms exclusively with acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise for ten years. My skin never really cleared up, but it made a major impact on my joints and I can very enthusiastically support these options as an adjunct or complement to whatever other treatment approach you are currently pursuing.

In the past 3 years (ever since my oldest son was born, natch) I just haven't been able to maintain the health regiment hat has kept me going all this time, and my symptoms got a LOT worse. I started Humira in desperation about 2 months ago. (It's actually a horror story, but I'll save that for another post... Now that I have gotten over my fears of posting, the flood gates are open!!)

The point I am making is that I am in no way "anti" pharmaceuticals (in fact, my father is an MD and my mom's a nurse, so there you go), and I honestly believe that an integrative approach is probably best for everyone. I regularly work with MDs of all kinds, and have great relationships with them.

OK, so I guess that's it - if anyone wants to know more about acupuncture, herbs, exercise or diet feel free to ask. I can't pretend to be a master of anything, but I have seen thousands (not exaggerating) of patients over the last 6 years, so I have learned a lot about the way the body works.

See you all on the boards, and I apologize in advance for the amount of parentheses I've used!

Robbie


Acupuncture: any luck?
#2

I've got a question.... why does acupuncture work for some and not others? I spent 6 months going to acupuncture twice a week with a great practitioner, and had zero response. We were both frustrated, and my practitioner said it was unusual to get no response like I did.


#3

Thanks for posting! I watched a documentary the other night that had a segment about acupuncture for pain control with wounded vets, and thought it was fascinating. They were doing a study with the goal of reducing the amount of opiates used for acute pain and were having very good results. When my insurance changes next month, I will be adding acupuncture treatments for pain management. Maybe some meditation too? :slight_smile:


#4

Love accupuncture, accupressure, started meditation and journaling.

Have never heard of accupuncture having zero result. Makes me question the practioners skill.

My mom, on occasion, would be immobilized with back pain. Meds gave no relief. Her accupuncturist would make a house call and in 30 minutes she would be up like nothing had happened.


#5

Hi Marietta,

There are two possible reasons:

1. Your acupuncturist may not have pursued the right treatment for your specific problem.

On the one hand, we all have this one disease: Psoriatic Arthritis. It is characterized by joint swelling and pain along with this skin condition called psoriasis. All the same disease.

But as you know, we all actually have different experiences - or at least a range of experience - with this disease. For example: Some arthritics love Florida because the heat helps their joints, for me it would be crippling because the humidity ALWAYS makes my problem worse... Some people swear by capsicum (spicy peppers) for joint pain, for others spicy things makes their skin flare... I could go on and on.

In acupuncture-land, all of the people in this group have something called "bi," or joint obstruction. However, there are at least 6 types of bi syndromes I can think of that would lead to a medical diagnosis of "psoriatic arthritis." This is one of the reasons I love acupuncture theory so much - it allows for a lot of specificity in diagnosis.

For the sake of time and everyone's patience I will only go into the two more common ones patterns to illustrate the point: warm-damp-bi, and cold-bi.

The symptoms of classic warm-damp-bi are swollen joints that are red, and warm to the touch. The joints are noticeably swollen, and it's often more than one joint. Often, people with warm-damp-bi are overweight, have digestive issues, have psoriasis that is more likely to have thick scales that weep fluid or blood when scratched.

For treatment, as you might expect, the warm-damp-bi patient likes ice on the painful joints (the cold ice counterbalances the excess warmth on the swollen joint) and likes dry climates (the dry air counteracts the damp of the disease). Acupuncture points known to clear heat from the body are used, as are herbs that are cold and dry in nature.

The cold-bi person is a very different case. Their PsA is characterized primarily by pain. Some joints will not even be noticeably swollen at all, but they will be painful. These painful joints are not red, and not warm to the touch. They have psoriasis, but the skin is either pale red or dull red, not bright, and the scales are often thin and white and they don't peel off easily. Acupuncture is used for this person primarily to disperse cold and get blood circulation back through the joint. Warm herbs are used, as well as heating pads.

So as you can see, same disease but two totally opposing treatment plans.

The job of the acupuncturist is to identify the very specific type (or even combination of types) of bi that a person is exhibiting, and then apply the correct treatment. It can be very complicated, especially because the ancient Chinese did not have these kinds of immune diseases to any kind of degree that we have them now, so there isn't an overwhelming amount of data out there from the billions of people who have used acupuncture over the centuries.

2. It just didn't work.

The frustrating truth is that no remedies work in all cases. Acupuncture, surgery, pharmaceuticals, chiropractic, chemotherapy - Nothing works all the time, it's just a sad fact.

For point of reference, when Embrel was approved there was a study that showed a truly impressive 71% success rate when combined with methotrexate. That's a remarkable success, but it still means almost a third of people taking it were not helped.

Wow - that was a long answer to a short question. Sorry!

Marietta said:

I've got a question.... why does acupuncture work for some and not others? I spent 6 months going to acupuncture twice a week with a great practitioner, and had zero response. We were both frustrated, and my practitioner said it was unusual to get no response like I did.


#6

Welcome and thanks for posting! I have had great success with acupuncture as a complimentary therapy, especially for my neck issues. I'd love to go regularly, but that's been an issue for me these past few months.


#7


Be careful how much meditating you do, you'll need a new name!

SereneCat just doesn't have the same ring to it...

GrumpyCat said:

Thanks for posting! I watched a documentary the other night that had a segment about acupuncture for pain control with wounded vets, and thought it was fascinating. They were doing a study with the goal of reducing the amount of opiates used for acute pain and were having very good results. When my insurance changes next month, I will be adding acupuncture treatments for pain management. Maybe some meditation too? :-)

#8


So glad to hear it's been helpful, Snooty!


#9

This is a really interesting note. Obviously no one is suggesting patients stop meds if they are helpful. I usually find the combo of meds and acupuncture work the best, but of course everyone is different!

Laura E D said:

Hi Marietta,

My personal experience is that the effect of acupuncture and some of the other subtler practices seem to become 'blocked' when I take a lot of pharmaceuticals or certain combinations of pharmaceuticals. Can end up draining a lot of energy from the practitioner with little to no effect. I am definitely not advocating that anyone should stop taking their prescribed meds. I've found that there is a time and place when I am receptive, and other times when I am just not.

Marietta said:

I've got a question.... why does acupuncture work for some and not others?


#10

Thanks for your reply. My acupuncturist tried many different things over the 6 months. She was very experienced with autoimmune disease, tons of recommendations and reviews from others who had been helped by her. For whatever reason I was the first patient she'd had who had zero response. We kept trying, like I said, various different ways to go at the problem for 6 months. For those who said I may have been 'blocked' by meds, at the time I was between treatments, and giving acupuncture a shot. So there was nothing I was taking that could have 'blocked' the treatment. My sister find acupuncture helpful for her sinus problems, a friend gets great relief from migraines with acupuncture. I just find it frustrating that I had no response.


#11

it sounds like this is a case of #2, then - it just didn't work. What sort of treatments are you pursuing now? Are they helping?

Marietta said:

Thanks for your reply. My acupuncturist tried many different things over the 6 months. She was very experienced with autoimmune disease, tons of recommendations and reviews from others who had been helped by her. For whatever reason I was the first patient she'd had who had zero response. We kept trying, like I said, various different ways to go at the problem for 6 months. For those who said I may have been 'blocked' by meds, at the time I was between treatments, and giving acupuncture a shot. So there was nothing I was taking that could have 'blocked' the treatment. My sister find acupuncture helpful for her sinus problems, a friend gets great relief from migraines with acupuncture. I just find it frustrating that I had no response.


#12

What is the issue, nym? Are you having trouble getting to a place, or is it the cost? I know for me it has been super hard to continue my treatment regimen since the cold weather has set in (I am in NYC, it's so miserable here right now!). I'm just so tired, by the time I get off work I want to get home as soon as possible.

nym said:

Welcome and thanks for posting! I have had great success with acupuncture as a complimentary therapy, especially for my neck issues. I'd love to go regularly, but that's been an issue for me these past few months.


#13

How do you choose an accupuncturist. We several in the area at least one is too "spiritual"


#14

This is a serious problem with my profession as far as I am concerned. In China, acupuncture is fully integrated in the medical system, it does not have this stigma attached to it. The truth is some people really like the "spiritual" part, but for me this was always a MAJOR turnoff. I was really lucky to have gone to an acupuncturist who was an MD in China as my first practitioner, so actually I didn't even know that this was a "thing" until I got to acupuncture school.

Anyway, as far as your question: I think a website says everything you need to know at this point. Like I said, some people really like the spiritual part of it so the practitioners that are providing that usually make it a point in their marketing.

I hope that helps!
tntlamb said:

How do you choose an accupuncturist. We several in the area at least one is too "spiritual"


#15

I "interviewed" several acupuncturists before deciding on one, just as I have doctors in the past. I see an acupuncturist who spends the first session talking to the person for at least a half hour before starting treatment to get to know as much about them, their issues, and their preferences before proceeding. He has all the knowledge to share, but how he shares it and how spiritual he gets about it depends on the person he's treating. I go to "community acupuncture" which means he's treating several people at a time (in separate rooms), so costs less than a private acupuncture appointment.


#16

Lamb, for my peace of mind, I went to an acupuncturist who had been a nurse practioner for 15 years before changing fields. She at least knew how to work with people with health problems and knew how the body works.


#17

Hey, robsamben!

So here’s my issue. Uncle Ps. Arthur has trashed my midfeet. It has also totalled my hips and knees, but they have been replaced. Not so simple with the feet. I went to see a foot surgeon last week, expecting that a fusion might be a solution. To my disappointment, the number of eroded joints (10, tarsal region) is far too great to do anything with. The most optimistic and hopeful thing he said was that, with any luck, the bones would fuse themselves and that would reduce my pain. Not the best suggestion I’ve ever had from a doc. But what could he do.

So now the question is: might there be a possibility of pain relief from acupuncture? Apparently, there’s a Chinese-trained practitioner here in town who some of our MDs recommend. But my problem is a bit out of the ordinary. Am I wasting my time and money by trying acupuncture?

What do you think?


#18

Just caught up with this thread seeing Seenie's question so thought I'd share my experience.

When I first had foot pain (believing it was tendonitis) I had some accupuncture from a physiotherapist, it made the pain worse so she stopped treating me. Then I started on methotrexate which made me very, very poorly - nausea, weakness, tiredness. On a friends recommendation I went to see a traditional Chinese accupuncturist even though some days I was so weak I could barely get myself there, she explained all my systems were pooped (not the technical term!!) but seeing her twice a week for a few weeks really helped with the energy issues. Would go back again if I felt I needed to.

I really like the idea of complementary therapies supporting evidence based medicine treatments so long as there are no contra-indications.

Will also be interested in your reply, robsamben, regarding accupuncture for pain relief.


#19

Hi there, Jules. Thanks for that experience. I’m willing to give it a try, but I’m on a retirement income and I’m spending my allowance on new shoes this month, so I don’t have a lot of cash to flash. I’ll spend some money if there’s a reasonable prospect of improvement. Thanks again for the input.


#20

Hey Seenie,

Funny, I started to reply and then I saw your most recent comment so I am changing it up a bit. On the one hand I can say with certainty that I have treated people in a similar situation (foot pain, joint erosion, history or arthritic disease, not necessarily PsA) with very good results within 10 sessions. I'd say I've seen about 15 people over the past 5 years that are similar cases to yours, and probably 8-10 of them were helped a LOT, and another 2-5 had some level of relief but nothing permanent, and the rest got nothing but a bill.

I think from your comment you already know this but since Jules kind of brought it up I may as well mention, definitely go to a licensed acupuncturist and not another type of doctor who "does acupuncture." It takes 2,000 hours of training to get my license, but an MD can get the same privileges with 200 hours of instruction. And now I am off my soap box.

If you decide to do it, call the L. Ac your doc recommends, see if he'll cut you a break on a package of sessions, let him know your situation. If the price is too high, look for something called community acupuncture. These are clinics that have drastically reduced the cost (often it's on a sliding scale from $15 - $40 a session), and the practitioners there are usually the most experienced you can find because they see higher volumes of people. Especially if you have a "weird" problem like this, that may be your best bet. I don't know what the rules of this board are, but I could probably recommend someone in your area if you like. Don't want to step on any toes there. Good luck! I'd love it if you kept me posted.