Updated: Jul 6, 2019
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the lining of the joints throughout the body. This is a chronic type of arthritis that often appears symmetrically on both sides of the body (hands, wrists, fingers, knees, etc.), which can help distinguish it from other types. RA can also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, or nerves.
Signs and symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen, and deformed joints. They are stiffer in the mornings and after long periods of inactivity, improving with movement. The pain and stiffness, however, generally results in reduced movement and function of the affected areas. RA can also be accompanied by fever, fatigue, weight loss, inflammation of the eyes, anemia, various lung disease, and lumps under the skin (often near the elbows).
Basic acupuncture protocol
There is a saying among Tung practitioners: "When the baby is hurt, don't hurt the baby." This means we don't directly needle the affected area. Instead, we needle distal points and use guides to move the energy to the area we want to target. Since a lot of areas at a time can be painful with RA, you might want to start with these points
Note: Needle these points downward next to the bone rather than perpendicularly toward the bone!
Wu Hu (Five Tigers) These are five equidistant points on the radial margin of the proximal phalangeal segment of the thumbs. These are a kind of microsystem for the hands and feet.
RA in the fingers - needle Wu Hu 1 (the most distal)
RA in the hands - needle Wu Hu 2
RA in the toes - needle Wu Hu 3
RA at the tops of the feet - needle Wu Hu 4
RA at the bottom of the feet (or for plantar fasciitis) - needle Wu Hu 5 (most proximal)
What if the fingers are too painful to use these points? Then you can use the ones on the big toe. They work in the same way that the Wu Hu points do with point 1 being the most distal and treating the fingers, etc. By the way, you generally won't find these points in the reference books. Dr. Robert Chu discovered them working with RA patients. If you haven't studied with him on eLotus or another venue, I totally recommend his classes.
Dr. Robert Chu's WTH points Regardless of which of these you choose, also needle Dr. Chu's WTH protocol points for a full treatment.
Susan Johnson's recommended set
Wu Hu, as discussed above
Xin Men I'm cheating. This is the graphic for Chang Men. But Xin Men is located 1.5 cun distal to the olecranon process on this same line. Needle it like both Chang Men and Gan Men - with the patient's arm resting palm down on the arm of a chair or on the treatment table - then insert the needle just below the ulna. Use your fingernail to palpate the margin of the ulna