My Journey With Community Acupuncture and RA
Since my diagnosis over 19 years ago, I have implemented a holistic approach in treating my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I use of combination of Western medication, dietary changes, exercise, physical therapy, and alternative therapies. Through the years, I have found that this combination of treatment approaches works well for me.
Acupuncture: Eastern versus Western practice
While acupuncture has its origins in traditional Chinese medicinal practice, it has also been adopted and adapted into Western medical practice. Mayo Clinic describes acupuncture as "the insertion of needles through your skin at strategic points on your body." The idea behind the original Eastern practice of acupuncture is that the insertion of tiny needles at very specific points on the body will help to rebalance your body’s energy or the flow of life force (chi or qi).1
Western medicine acupuncture practitioners have a slightly different perspective on acupuncture points. They view acupuncture points as locations where nerves, connective tissues, and muscles are stimulated. This stimulation is believed to help your body boost its ability to fight pain naturally, helping your body to release naturally-produced painkillers.1
My journey with acupuncture
I went to acupuncture several years ago after living for years in chronic pain. I was just looking for something to help with the chronic pain I was experiencing. If I am being honest, the cost of treatment sessions can be pricey. Price ranges vary depending on where you live. However, for me personally, prices ranged from $100 to $175 per session.
The acupuncture session was beneficial in helping decrease my pain levels. However, I was only able to go infrequently because of the cost.
Three months ago, I was at my rheumatology appointment. I had been experiencing a terrible flare of my RA and fibromyalgia simultaneously. My rheumatologist asked when I had last been to the acupuncturist; I explained to her that it was difficult for me to keep up with the cost. She understood but continued to highly recommend the treatment.
I was determined to find a solution. After much more research, it was my physical therapist who recommended a resource in my community.
Discovering community acupuncture
The acupuncturist I see is a member of the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA). It is a nonprofit organization whose mission is "to work cooperatively to increase accessibility to and availability of affordable group acupuncture treatments.”2
My acupuncturist offers sessions on a sliding scale from $15 to $40 per session. You pay what you can on the scale, no questions asked. The clinic does not take insurance, receive grants, or receive state or federal monies. It operates solely on a sustainable community business model, reliant on patients in my community.
This or That
Are you interested in discussing more complementary, supplementary, and alternative treatments for RA?
The benefits of receiving acupuncture on a consistent basis
The affordability of acupuncture sessions at my community clinic has allowed me to receive treatments once a week. I have noticed not only a decrease in my pain levels and inflammation, but an overall decrease in my anxiety levels. My sleep has also been impacted in a positive way; my sleep quality has improved and is much more of a restorative sleep. I am excited to continue my treatment sessions.
Acupuncture is not for everyone, though. I urge you to always talk with your rheumatologist and doctors before starting treatment.
Community-based services make it possible
Much more research needs to be conducted on the impact acupuncture has clinically on individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. However, I can only speak on my experiences. I have seen really positive results.
I had given up on it as an option because of the cost. I am hoping this article can help even one person out there whose rheumatologist has recommended acupuncture but for whom cost is an issue.
I will never stop advocating. I will continue researching for ways that our community can receive and afford the treatments recommended to us by our physicians.