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In a large medical study, 570 people with osteoarthritis of the knee who were aged 50 or older received real acupuncture or ‘sham’ acupuncture. Those who received acupuncture had a 40% decrease in pain and a nearly 40% improvement in function compared to baseline assessments. Modern medical studies are showing that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for symptoms due to arthritis, osteoarthritis, knee pain, joint pain and a host of other health problems.

I treat patients regularly for knee pain at my acupuncture clinic. Read this research article I reviewed that demonstrates acupuncture’s effectiveness for osteoarthritis of the knee joint.

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a painful condition marked by knee inflammation of the knee joint and decreased function. Patients with osteoarthritis find walking, stair climbing, and other daily activities difficult.

In the December 21, 2004 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, a study assessing the efficacy of acupuncture for knee pain relief due to osteoarthritis was published. The study was the longest and largest randomized, controlled phase III clinical trial of acupuncture ever conducted.

Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), both components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the study demonstrated pain relief and better function for people with knee osteoarthritis.

570 people over the age of 50 with osteoarthritis of the knee were studied. Participants in the study had significant pain in their knee the month before joining the study, but had not had knee surgery in the prior six months or used steroid or similar injections. None had ever had acupuncture. They continued to receive standard medical care from their primary physicians, including anti-inflammatory medications and narcotic pain medications.

By week 8, participants receiving acupuncture were showing a significant increase in function and by week 14 a significant decrease in pain, compared with the sham and control groups. The results held through the 26th week.

Overall, those who received acupuncture had a 40% decrease in pain and a nearly 40% improvement in function

“For the first time, a clinical trial with sufficient rigor, size, and duration has shown that acupuncture reduces the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee,” said Stephen E. Straus, M.D., NCCAM Director. “These results also indicate that acupuncture can serve as an effective addition to a standard regimen of care and improve quality of life for knee osteoarthritis sufferers. NCCAM has been building a portfolio of basic and clinical research that is now revealing the power and promise of applying stringent research methods to ancient practices like acupuncture.”

“More than 20 million Americans have osteoarthritis. This disease is one of the most frequent causes of physical disability among adults,” said Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., NIAMS Director. “Thus, seeking an effective means of decreasing osteoarthritis pain and increasing function is of critical importance.”

“This trial, which builds upon our previous NCCAM-funded research, establishes that acupuncture is an effective complement to conventional arthritis treatment and can be successfully employed as part of a multidisciplinary approach to treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Berman.


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