Why Use Leech Therapy to Threat Arthritis?
Arthritis is one of the disabling diseases of the joints that affect not only the physical body but the quality of life as well.
Chronic arthritis of a joint can cripple an individual, especially if it affects weight-bearing and multiple joints. There
are many medications available to relieve pain and swelling, but sometimes this is not enough. Likewise, there are also many
treatments available such as heat treatment and cold therapy to assist in the symptoms of arthritis, but these do not in fact
reduce the pain on a long term basis. One of the oldest and most therapeutic therapies for this condition is leech therapy.
What is Leech Therapy?
The use of leeches is one way to treat a multitude of illness and disease. Leeches have found their niche in the medicine world and serve many purposes. For one, they are commonly used as a management for blood clotting problems and are effective for people with diabetes. Secondly, their saliva releases substances and chemicals that can help decrease the inflammation process, thereby decreasing the pain one feels in an inflamed joint.
Leech Therapy and Arthritis
Our joints need synovial fluid to move freely and pain-free. The articular surfaces of bones making up a joint are lined with lubricating membranes. Small membrane sacs, or bursae, occur in the space between the bones of most joints. These membranes lining joints are known as synovial membranes because they secrete synovial lubricating fluid. People suffering arthritis have less synovial fluid, causing pain on movement. The edges of the bones as well as the cartilages also deteriorate, adding more tenderness to the already painful joint. This causes inflammation due to tissue damage and prolonged, untreated arthritis can lead to deformities.
How Can Leeches Help With Arthritis?
The leeches’ saliva assists in the treatment of arthritis. There are many substances and compounds in their saliva that
reduces inflammation in a joint, some of which are the compounds that are called bdelins and eglins, acting as an anti-inflammatory. Aside from anti-inflammatory components, their saliva also has an anesthetic component that deadens the pain felt in the joint and also has a histamine-like substance that acts as a vasodilator. Acetylcholine, another component of the leech’s saliva is also a vasodilator. This is important in the treatment of arthritis because when the vessels dilate [expand], it increases the flow of blood, thus, washing away the compounds that cause pain and inflammation.
Leech Treatment for Arthritis
There are approximately 600 species of leeches known worldwide and only 15 species are considered as medicinal leeches and used for arthritis and other treatments. When a patient arrives in the clinic, the arthritic joint is first cleansed before medicinal leeches are allowed to attach themselves.
They do this by puncturing the skin, where they will begin to suck on the patient’s blood. The Leech’s natural process removes infected blood and at the same time, releases therapeutic components and enzymes from its saliva, allowing these components and enzymes to work their wonders in reducing inflammation and pain in the joint.
Through the entire process, each leech would have sucked approximately 10 ml of blood. The areas are then cleansed and dressed to help prevent further blood loss.
Frequency of Leech Therapy for Arthritis
All cases are individual, but on average, medicinal leech therapy is usually performed three times a week for approximately six weeks.
Improvement in joint pain and inflammation will be noticed within the first few sessions. Not only is it a safe way to treat arthritis, but it has also been one of the cures for this disease for many years.