Two new studies suggest a combination of alternaitve treatment  techniques for arthritis. One involves the use of acupuncture, the art of piercing needles, the scientific explanation of which is unknown, though it has proved to work. The other involves the use of turmeric, the yellow spice which gives curry its color and flavor.

Two studies on these methods were published in November issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. A German team says a combination of acupuncture and conventional medicine can boost quality of life for patients suffering from osteoarthritis.And in a second study in the same issue, American researchers say the ingestion of a special turmeric extract could help prevent or curb both acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

The German study compared the experience of 357 patients given immediate acupuncture with a further 355 whose treatment started three months later.Benefits were measured on the WOMAC scale, a widely used scale of disease severity which measures pain, stiffness, and how well the joint works. 

Partly as a result of the trial, the German Ministry of Health is considering a recommendation from a federal committee of doctors and health insurers that acupuncture should be covered by medical insurance.Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular in Britain and many physiotherapy departments in hospitals now offer the services of an acupuncturist. 

In the American reserach on the usefulness of turmeric to treat arthiritis, the scientists built on earlier research conducted with rats. Those efforts suggested that turmeric might prevent joint inflammation. Investigations in the laboratory revealed that turmeric stops a particular protein from launching an inflammatory “chain reaction” linked to swelling and pain. The expression of hundreds of genes normally involved in instigating bone destruction and swelling was also altered by the turmeric.It was stressed, however, that the findings are preliminary, and the extract needs to be tested in people.


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