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Acupuncture for Arthritis Knee Pain

If you have knee pain due to arthritis, you may want to know about a recent landmark study showing that acupuncture provides pain relief and improves function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee. This is the largest Phase III clinical trial ever conducted of acupuncture for this kind of pain.

The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which are both part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study involved 570 patients age 50 and older. All patients had osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants had significant pain in their knee in the month before the study, but they had never experienced acupuncture before, had not had knee surgery in the previous six months and had not used steroid injections. For the study, they continued to receive standard care from their primary physicians, including common medications for arthritis pain.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: acupuncture alone, sham acupuncture (in which needles were placed at areas in the body that were not true acupuncture points) or a control group that followed the Arthritis Foundationís self-help course for managing their condition.

By week eight of the study, patients receiving acupuncture were showing a significant increase in function, and by week 14, they were showing a significant decrease in pain. The study lasted for 26 weeks, and the improved function and pain lasted for the duration of the study. Overall, participants receiving acupuncture achieved a 40 percent decrease in pain and a 40 percent increase in function.

Annals of Internal Medicine, 21 December 2004; The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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