Acupuncture help patients with arthritis of the knee

The ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture can help those suffering from arthritis of the knee, according to new research. The study is the largest clinical trial on acupuncture reported to date.

More than 20 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis. It’s one of the most frequent causes of physical disability in adults.

The current study was led by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. The multi-location trial included 570 patients ages 50 or older with osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants were placed in three groups. One hundred and ninety patients received acupuncture, 191 underwent sham acupuncture, and 189 followed a self-help course to manager their condition. The patients all received their standard medical care from their physicians.

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific body points to stimulate the body and improve health. In the sham acupuncture group, the needles were taped to the skin, so the patient would feel some sensation, but the needles were not inserted.

Study authors report by the eighth week of the study, the patients receiving acupuncture showed an increase in function of their knee. By week 14, the patients in the acupuncture group had a decrease in pain compared to the other two groups. Specifically, the patients receiving acupuncture reported a 40-percent decrease in pain and a 40-percent increase in function.

Lead researcher Brian Berman, M.D., says, “This trial … 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.”

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2004;141:901-911

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