Knee pain related to arthritis is quite common, particularly as we age. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. It is a degenerative,”wear-and-tear” type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, but may occur in younger people, too. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away.
Conventional treatment generally includes pain medication and anti-inflammatories. While they can be beneficial, long term use can result in serious side effects including kidney and liver damage. Even short term side effects of these medications can be significant and include: upset stomach, mild heartburn, nausea, vomiting; bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, headache, nervousness, mild itching or rash, and ringing in your ears. Thank you, but I’d rather pass.
What if I told you there was a treatment that was both safe and effective for arthritis of the knees. What if I also told you this treatment has been tested clinically for thousands of years. Since you are reading this, the obvious answer is found in acupuncture.
In a study by researchers from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture received five times a week for four weeks significantly reduced pain and improved stiffness in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
More than 550 patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis took part in the 26-week trial. The participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or self-help strategies recommended by the Arthritis Foundation (the latter served as a control group).
In another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, significant differences in response were seen by week eight and fourteen, and at the end of the trial, the group receiving real acupuncture had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function compared to baseline assessments — a 33 percent difference in improvement over the sham group. They note:
Acupuncture seems to provide improvement in function and pain relief as an adjunctive therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee when compared with credible sham acupuncture and education control groups.
Most exciting to me is the fact that acupuncture, when used to treat chronic knee pain, has been shown to provide relief for months after treatment has ended. In one particular study, patients still noted relief 12 weeks later.
From this systematic review, we conclude that acupuncture may be effective at relieving chronic knee pain 12 weeks after acupuncture administration, based on the current evidence and our protocol.
As the detrimental side effects of pain medication continue to mount, patients as well as medical doctors are seeking safe alternatives. Acupuncture has proven be both safe and effective when it comes to the treatment of arthritis related pain.