Acupuncture reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis
04/07/2019 // Janine Acero // Views

One of the most widely used methods for relieving pain is acupuncture. It is especially recommended to people with rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, swelling and pain in the joints and other body organs. Because of its scope, people suffering from RA have a high risk of developing other diseases, one of which is coronary heart disease. Researchers from Taiwan conducted a large-scale study assessing the CHD risk between RA patients who receive acupuncture treatment and those who don't. Their findings were published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The researchers assessed 29,741 patients with newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) from January 1997 to December 2010 from the Registry of Catastrophic Illness Patients Database from the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database. Among the patients, the researchers identified 10,199 who received acupuncture treatment (acupuncture users) and 19,542 who did not receive acupuncture (non-users).

The researchers also identified 9,932 patients in both the acupuncture group and non-acupuncture group using 1:1 propensity score matching by age, sex, baseline comorbidity, conventional treatment, initial diagnostic year, and index year. The main outcome was measured by the diagnosis of coronary heart disease (CHD) in acupuncture users and non-users.

Their findings showed that acupuncture users had a lower incidence of CHD than non-users. The estimated cumulative case of CHD was significantly lower in the acupuncture group.


Furthermore, a lower incidence of CHD was observed in patients receiving traditional acupuncture (Chinese medicine style), electroacupuncture, or a combination of both treatments, than patients who never received acupuncture. (Related: Women suffering from stress urinary incontinence can benefit from electroacupuncture.)

Based on the propensity score matching, the preventive effect of acupuncture on CHD risk was independent of age, sex, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and statins use.

The researchers conclude that acupuncture shows promise in preventing the development of CHD in RA patients in Taiwan. Their study could provide useful information for further clinical and mechanistic studies.

Managing autoimmune diseases with acupuncture

The immune system is in charge of fighting off malignant pathogens that enter the body. In the case of an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, triggering different kinds of debilitating symptoms.

Over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases. Besides rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases also include celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disease, to name a few.

Integrative therapies have been used in managing complex health problems such as autoimmune diseases. Acupuncture, in particular, is renowned for effectively relieving pain, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving overall health and quality of life. So how does acupuncture do it?

Acupuncture mainly stimulates the normal mechanism of the immune system, which is a major component in autoimmune diseases. According to research, acupuncture can influence physical responses in the body, such as in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses then cause the body to release hormones, proteins, and brain chemicals that control certain body functions. These actions help regulate blood pressure, body temperature, and the immune system.

Acupuncture activates the body's endogenous opioids (enkephalins and endorphins), which mainly contribute to the therapy's pain-relieving effects. Its anti-inflammatory effects are also shown to be akin to glucocorticoids (steroids). Moreover, acupuncture has been shown to calm the body and ease stress caused by the condition's symptoms.

Autoimmune diseases are complex health problems and can occur as a combination of several diseases at once. To learn more about the natural ways to manage and treat these conditions, visit

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