A new study concludes that acupuncture reduces knee pain and increases mobility for patients with osteoarthritis. This new randomized, controlled, double-blinded study also revealed some differences in acupuncture treatments. The researchers compared non-specific (sham) needling, modern acupuncture and classical acupuncture treatments.
The results showed that sham acupuncture only achieved a patient pain reduction rate in 48% of patients while modern acupuncture achieved a 64% rate and classical acupuncture achieved a 73% rate. Sham acupuncture did not improve knee mobility but modern and classical acupuncture made significant, measurable improvements in knee mobility. The researchers concluded that there is “a specific effect of acupuncture in knee mobility.” The researchers also note, “With respect to knee motility, individualised classical acupuncture achieved twice the effect of semistandardised modern acupuncture.”
The sham acupuncture bodily points were those not specifically noted for the treatment of knee pain in Chinese medicine texts. The modern acupuncture points were those suggested based on the biomedical condition of knee osteoarthritis. The acupuncture points were: ST36, ST34, EX32, SP9, SP10, SP6, GB34, LI4. The classical acupuncture points chosen were based on a customized differential diagnosis based on tissue tenderness, tongue diagnosis, pulse diagnosis, syndrome differentiation and symptoms. Needles chose for the study in all cases were 0.22 X 40mm copper needles. Ear and hand points were excluded from the study. Needle stimulation was applied and needle retention was a total of 30 minutes per treatment.
The researchers note, “This suggests a considerable specific effect of acupuncture in objective knee flexibility, an effect that appears to be method-specific as well… we observed a rapid improvement of knee flexibility immediately after classical acupuncture, which was twice the effect observed after modern acupuncture and absent after non-specific needling.”
This is not the first study showing the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of knee disorders. One recent study discovered that acupuncture is more effective than both sham acupuncture and biomedicine for the treatment of knee pain. A meta-analysis of 14 random controlled clinical trials involving 3,835 patients states, “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.” The study notes that acupuncture for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis is “better at relieving pain and restoring function” than both standard biomedical care and sham acupuncture.
Max Karner, Frank Brazkiewicz, Andrew Remppis, et al., “Objectifying Specific and Nonspecific Effects of Acupuncture: A Double-Blinded Randomised Trial in Osteoarthritis of the Knee,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 427265, 7 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/427265
Sau. Med J. 2012 May;33(5):526-32. Needle acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee. A systematic review and updated meta-analysis. Cao L, Zhang XL, Gao YS, Jiang Y. Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Shanghai Sixth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China.