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A recent study shows that acupuncture is a technique that may very well help to manage symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. In the study, those who received acupuncture for osteoarthritis had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function compared to baseline assessments.

An Overview of Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis

Acupuncture -- the practice of inserting thin needles into specific body points to improve health and well-being -- originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. It is used by an estimated 2 million adults in the United States each year.
 
The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are then manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. In recent years, scientific inquiry has begun to shed more light on acupuncture's possible mechanisms and potential benefits, especially in treating painful conditions such as arthritis.
 

What Does Research Say About Treating Osteoarthritis With Acupuncture?

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.
 
Study Specifics
The multisite study team, including rheumatologists and licensed acupuncturists, enrolled 570 people, ages 50 and older, with osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants had significant pain in the knee the month before joining the study, but had never experienced acupuncture, had not had knee surgery in the previous six months, and had not used steroids or similar injections.
 
Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or participation in a control group that followed the Arthritis Foundation's self-help course for managing the condition. People continued to receive standard medical care from their primary physicians, including anti-inflammatory medications such as COX-2 selective inhibitors, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and opioid pain relievers.
 
Sham acupuncture is a procedure designed to prevent people from being able to detect if needles are actually inserted at treatment points. In both the sham and true acupuncture procedures, a screen prevented participants from seeing the knee treatment area and learning which treatment they received.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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