In brief: Difficult knees get modest benefit from acupuncture

In brief

Difficult knees get modest benefit from acupuncture

Published: March, 2014

Loss of joint cartilage through osteoarthritis is one of the major causes of disability and pain, especially in older people. It can be particularly debilitating when it affects the knee, one of the body's major weight-bearing joints. A study has found that acupuncture — the ancient Chinese practice of placing hair-thin needles at certain points on the body to treat medical conditions — can reduce pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. The findings don't mean that acupuncture is a substitute for proven conventional therapies. But they do suggest that the popular treatment can be an effective adjunctive, or complementary, therapy for people with osteoarthritic knees.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine conducted the 570-person study — the largest and best-designed trial of acupuncture to date. Women and men age 50 or over with osteoarthritis of the knee were assigned to one of three groups: true acupuncture, "sham" acupuncture, or arthritis education. People in both acupuncture groups received 23 treatments over a period of 26 weeks from licensed acupuncturists trained and supervised by the study's own expert.

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