The Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) issued new guidelines for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. Acupuncture made it onto the list of recommended nonpharmacologic treatments, and none of us in the acupuncture world are surprised.

To practitioners trained in Chinese Medicine chronic pain is a complex phenomenon often involving multiple rather than singular points of origin. Our multidimensional approach is perhaps the reason why we are so successful in treating osteoarthritis; We do not focus on the degeneration of bone and cartilage but on the systemic dysfunctions that gives rise to those degenerative changes.

Let’s use an automotive example. If your car needs an oil change you also change the oil filter, otherwise you’re running clean oil through a dirty filter, and that oil ain’t gonna stay clean long. Drugs for pain are sort of like running new (pharmaceutical) oil through your system. Drugs for chronic pain are big guns, designed to flood your entire system with an antidote to what ails you. But these drugs are not designed to be systems-wise. That’s why so many, like Vioxx, have proven, harmful side-effects to other aspects of human physiology. Acupuncture, on the other hand, doesn’t flood your system with anything. Instead, to use our car analogy, it is a treatment that cleans your filter, so that everything flows freely and doesn’t gunk up.