Knee osteoarthritis (KOA) is the fastest growing health disorder and the most common cause of disability. This is due to gradual loss of joint cartilage and local inflammatory processes. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs and joint replacement surgery are the treatments in Western medicine. Due to undesirable side effects of long-term pharmacological treatments and knee surgery, complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies are increasingly used. Acupuncture treatment represents the most popular form of CAM.
Much evidence from clinical trials and systemic reviews has suggested that acupuncture can be effective in treating pain and dysfunction in patients with KOA.
A randomised trial on acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee from Germany investigated the efficacy of acupuncture compared with minimal acupuncture and with no acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients with chronic osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to acupuncture minimal acupuncture (superficial needling at non-acupuncture points), or a waiting list control. Specialised physicians, in 28 outpatient centres, administered acupuncture and minimal acupuncture in 12 sessions over 8 weeks. After 8 weeks of treatment, pain and joint function are improved more with acupuncture than with minimal acupuncture or no acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
A systematic review analysed 114 clinical trials (covering 22 treatments and 9,709 patients). The results indicate that acupuncture can be considered as one of the more effective physical treatments for alleviating osteoarthritis knee pain in the short-term.
Another more recent review analysed 14 randomised control trials involving 3,835 patients and concluded that acupuncture provided significantly better relief from knee osteoarthritis pain and a larger improvement in function than sham acupuncture, standard care treatment, or waiting for further treatment.
A recent multicenter clinical trial studied acupuncture at low pain threshold and high pain threshold patients with knee arthritis. Result showed similar effects in pain reduction at 16 weeks, and acupuncture were more effective than a waiting-list control on all patients regardless of their pain threshold.
C Witt et al Clinical Trial Lancet 2005 Jul 9-15;366(9480)
M.S. Corbett et al Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Sep; 21(9): 1290–1298.
Le Cao et al Saudi Med J. 2012 May;33(5):526-32.
Jiali Liu et al Chin Med. 2022; 17: 67.
Welcome to my blog, discover acupuncture with Dr Maggie Ju
Qualified as a medical doctor in Western medicine in China with a Medical degree from Beijing, China and a PhD degree from the UK. Many year research and clinical experiences. This blog is for information only.
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