The power of acupuncture for osteoarthritis treatment has become dramatically clearer due to several recent major studies.
A German study of more that 3,600 adults with knee or hip osteoarthritis found that acupuncture brought lasting pain relief during treatment, and at 3-and 6-month intervals following the treatment.
The study assigned 712 of the participants randomly to either a standard treatment group or a group that receive standard treatment plus acupuncture for three months. The remainder of the participants opted out of the random assignment phase, and all of these received acupuncture as part of their treatment. After three months of therapy, the acupuncture recipients showed greater improvement in their reported pain scores on average, with about one-third reporting an improvement of 50% or more.
Those benefits remained constant at the 3-month and 6-month intervals, as well. Based on this one of the largest clinical trials to research acupuncture, the German government is adding acupuncture treatment for osteoarthritis to its standard coverage in its public health system, the researchers report.
Another study conducted by U.S. researchers at the University of Maryland found similar reports in people suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. This 25-week study involved 570 patients, finding that those who received acupuncture showed improved function and reported less pain than the control groups (1).
Recent studies on animals bring some insights on biochemical mechanisms of acupuncture treatments.
A study performed by a collaboration of U.S. and Korean researchers on an induced arthritic rat model suggests a potent antinociceptive effect of moxibustion (an alternative technique of acupuncture point treatment) assessed by a behavioral test, immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. It demonstrates that the treatment of the particular acupoint for 9 days modulates neuronal excitability and endogenous nitric oxide (NO) production by suppressing c-Fos and nNOS protein expression which are known to be involved in inflammatory pain response from osteoarthritis (2).
Evidence presented at the Kyoto conference in Japan shows that acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee has a biological effect, has a large clinical effect in practice, has negligible risk, and has a cost effectiveness which is well within the usual acceptable limit. On the present evidence, acupuncture is likely to offer an alternative to treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for osteoarthritis (3).
1. ©Acufinder the magazine (2007). Spring, p.6.
2. Kim, J., H. Kim, Y. Park et al. (2006). Moxibustion at ST36 Alleviates Pain in Complete Freund’s Adjuvant-Induced Arthritic Rats. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 34, No. 1, 57-67.
3. White, A. & K. Kawakita. The evidence on acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis – editorial summary on the implications for health policy. 2006. Acupunct. Med. 24, Suppl: S71-76.