I've had a number of questions recently about the effectiveness of acupuncture and herbs for treating RA. The short answer is that we always treat the underlying issues with the body - not just the symptom picture - and therefore always are able to achieve, at the very least, some success. This is a very important point to consider when choosing your provider, as clinical experience is extremely important when dealing with the holistic and integrative medicine aspects of autoimmune disease.
The long answer is, well, longer. As acupuncturists and herbalists, we always are treating the underlying condition. We may refer to it as the root cause, baseline diagnosis, or by some other term that is a step back from the symptoms you are experiencing. In my practice I refer to treating the root cause as the "stove situation." You can apply ice and burn cream to your hand and maybe get a little relief, but if you want to stop the issues from reappearing you must also remove your hand from the stove. The same can be said for autoimmune conditions. Your joints may hurt, but if we only treat the pain we aren't really addressing why they hurt. And they will hurt again, guaranteed. It is for this reason that results from acupuncture can be profound and lasting if you are able to maintain your treatment plan according to your provider's recommendations. One and done treatments are great for relatively simple issues, like the common cold. But if you have an advanced autoimmune condition expect your provider to offer a picture of symptom relief within months, not days.
For a little more content on what some of the modern research is showing, check out this link. The medical community as a whole is starting to understand that when we work together, our patients get better. Or, rather, more better.
So should you seek out an acupuncturist for management of your rheumatoid arthritis? Absolutely! But make sure that you get a chance to speak with your potential provider before your first appointment. There are a number of different styles of acupuncture, and just like in Western medicine there are plenty of specialties. You wouldn't go to your cardiologist to treat your RA, nor would go to your rheumatologist to treat your suspicious looking mole. Ask your acupuncturist if s/he has treated RA, or if they possibly specialize in pain/orthopedics/autoimmune conditions, and how comfortable they feel working with your other providers to ensure you receive the best care and the most potent symptom relief.