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“When I first started going I was going in on my knees, but I came out and I was skipping”: exploring rheumatoid arthritis patients’ perceptions of receiving treatment with acupuncture

Hughes, Joyce G. (2009) “When I first started going I was going in on my knees, but I came out and I was skipping”: exploring rheumatoid arthritis patients’ perceptions of receiving treatment with acupuncture. ISSN 1873-6963

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Abstract

Objectives To outline rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients’ experiences of receiving treatment with acupuncture, exploring the impact of practitioner affiliation to a traditional or western theoretical base. Design Qualitative study utilising grounded theory method. Convenience sample of thirteen patients with RA. Data collection, organisation and analysis performed concurrently. In-depth semi-structured interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed. Field notes were also taken. Open, axial and selective coding performed. Emergent categories and themes identified and informed the topics to be discussed in subsequent interviews. Results Patients perceived acupuncture as alleviating a number of RA symptoms including the relief of rheumatic pain and improvements in mobility. Acupuncture was additionally perceived as alleviating a number of consequential secondary symptoms of RA, such as fatigue, depression and sleeplessness. These effects allowed patients to feel normal again and regain their lives, and resulted in improvements in patients’ lifestyle, emotional well-being and self-image. Acupuncturist affiliation impacts on both patient experience and perception of effects. Conclusions Acupuncture elicits a range of effects which contribute to improvements in RA patients’ quality of life. Varied levels of congruence were identified between the intended therapeutic effect of acupuncture [Hughes JG, Goldbart J, Fairhurst E, Knowles K. Exploring acupuncturists’ perceptions of treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2007;15:101–8] and patients’ perceptions of effects. Acupuncturist affiliation has demonstrable implications for the practice and research of acupuncture.

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