Arthritis and Acupuncture

What Does the Research Say?

In December 21, 2004, a study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showing that acupuncture can relieve pain and improve function in people with knee osteoarthritis. When patients first joined the study, their pain and knee function were assessed using standard arthritis research survey instruments and measurement tools. Patients' progress was assessed at 4, 8, 14, and 26 weeks. By week eight, participants receiving acupuncture were showing a significant increase in function; and by week 14 they were showing a significant decrease in pain, compared with those in the sham and control groups. These results held through week 26. Overall, those who received acupuncture had a 40-percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40-percent improvement in function compared to baseline assessments.
For rheumatoid arthritis, a handful of small studies have been conducted, and the findings do not clearly answer whether acupuncture is effective with this type of arthritis. Issues with the studies have included design problems, a small number of participants, variations in which acupuncture was given on the body, and how many treatments were given and for how long. More and better research is needed.

Considering Acupuncture for Arthritis?

Based on the results of research studies, acupuncture can serve as an effective addition to the standard treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. It should not, however, be used in place of other arthritis treatments that have been recommended. It's also important to realize that acupuncture may not be effective for other types of osteoarthritis or other types of arthritis.
You should make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about arthritis and acupuncture before you begin using this treatment option. Also, if you decide to use acupuncture, it is important to find a licensed and certified practitioner. This is important because complications of acupuncture have usually been due to inadequate practitioner training and experience.
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