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Acupuncture for Lupus Patients

Updated on January 1, 2012

Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese medicine technique that is considered a powerful means of pain relief. Acupuncture has been a successful means for reliving pain associated with a variety of conditions, including lupus. Other chronic pain conditions that have been effectively treated with acupuncture include arthritis, Fibromyalgia, headaches, premenstrual syndrome, as well as many additional conditions. Dating back thousands of years, acupuncture is one of the oldest and most frequently used medical procedures worldwide. Needle acupuncture has been FDA approved in the United States since 1996.


Philosophy of Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a philosophy of natural balance. Traditional Chinese Medicine holds that that energy, or qi, travels through the body along channels known as meridians. A primary tenet of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that all parts of the human body are interconnected, and that pain is the body’s way of warning us that there is something wrong with part(s) of the body. When the energy flow is balanced, the body’s organs and systems work properly and there is an absence of pain.

When the energy flow is out of balance, something is wrong in the body and the patient experiences pain. An underlying premise of acupuncture is that energy flows through hundreds of acupoints that lie beneath the skin’s surface along meridians. Acupuncture treatment focuses on balancing the energy flow within the patient’s body. Acupuncturists are trained to identify the acupoint at which a patient’s pain originates. By treating the source of pain, energy flow is balanced and energy balance is restored, thus resulting in pain cessation.

How Accupuncture is Used

Both needle and laser acupuncture therapy are widely used. The acupuncturist will assess the patient to determine which acupoints require treatment. Treatment varies widely among patients. Determining the correct acupoints to treat is an intricate diagnostic process that involves a particular way of taking the patient’s pulse, as well as touching, smelling, and listening. It is important to note that the practitioner determines the source of the pain, so the area treated will not be the area where pain is felt.

Once the source of the pain is identified, the acupuncturist will stimulate the appropriate acupoint. The procedure is performed either by inserting an acupuncture needle into the acupoint or stimulating it with a laser beam, as a means of inputting energy. Acupuncture needles are not as thick as injection needles. Most patients report that needle acupuncture is not painful. Some say they do not feel any sensation during treatment, and others compare the feeling to a mosquito bite. Some people find the treatment so relaxing that they fall asleep. Conversely, some people report feeling energized as a result of acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture for Lupus Symptoms

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for the pain associated with many different types of medical conditions in which patients experience acute and/or chronic pain. The number of treatments required will vary by patient. While acupuncture can provide pain relief, it is important to note that it will not stop the progression of lupus or cure it. There is no known cure for lupus. Patients with active lupus who experience pain relief as a result of acupuncture are still likely to need corticosteroid medications to slow the disease process. A comprehensive treatment plan is likely to combine both traditional and nontraditional medicine.

East Meets Western Medicine

Before trying acupuncture, lupus patients should first consult with their physician. The physician may be able to recommend an acupuncturist who has experience working with lupus patients. Using a physician-referred acupuncturist may facilitate optimal communication between the two medical professionals. It is important that both the physician and acupuncturist are aware of all medications the patient is taking, including herbal remedies.

If an acupuncturist recommends herbal supplements, the patient should check with his or her physician before adding them to the treatment program. It is vital for the physician to be aware of every component of the patient’s treatment program at all times. Properly used as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan, acupuncture can be a powerful pain management tool for lupus patients.


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