Taking the Acupuncture Route

“The more studies that come in showing the drop in inflammatory markers through acupuncture treatments, the more rheumatologists will take note,” says Starkey. In a 2010 Mayo Clinic survey, 54 percent of rheumatologists said they would recommend acupuncture as an adjunct treatments, she adds. 

Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of jumping on the acupuncture bandwagon:

Get picky. “Find an acupuncturist who comes highly recommended by your rheumatologist or physician, family friends, and colleagues so you know firsthand what their experience was like,” says Starkey. If you don’t know anyone to ask, check with The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture (www.nccaom.org). You can search on its site for a certified clinician in your area. 

Acupuncturists also have to be licensed by their state medical board so you can check there as well. “Ideally, try to find someone who has experience working with RA patients,” says Starkey.  

Some insurance companies cover acupuncture. Prices range, depending on your area, say Starkey, noting that in Cleveland prices are $60 to $200 per treatment.

Expect several treatments. “We tend to see substantial results within three to six treatments,” says Gold. But each patient responds differently and treatments vary depending on the stage of the disease, adds Starkey.

“The more chronic the condition, the more stubborn it is to treat. If we see you early on, there is a much better chance of improvement,” she says.

Understand the limits. Acupuncture doesn’t work on everyone, says Starkey: “In my clinical work, we see a 20 percent non-response rate. But more often than not, patients come in who have exhausted everything. Then they notice improvement.”

Try, try again. Acupuncture has many styles and practitioners. “If it doesn’t work right away, don’t dismiss the whole field of acupuncture,” says Gold. “Try a different style.”