Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and those who suffer from the condition often experience debilitating pain as their joint cartilage breaks down. When a patient visits a Western doctor with knee osteoarthritis, medication, exercises, and surgery are often offered as treatments. Pharmacological and surgical interventions have a high risk for serious side effects. Acupuncture and other holistic healing modalities have little to no side effects and are safe, yet are typically overlooked.
Over the past several years, a host of well-known studies have cropped up indicating that acupuncture can be an extremely effective complementary therapy for treating osteoarthritis of the knee. In 2004, researchers at the University of Maryland published an acupuncture study that found traditional Chinese medicine significantly alleviated pain and improved function for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee who were in moderate to severe pain though they were on medication.
One of the University of Maryland’s study authors stated, “This research shows that acupuncture can help to relieve symptoms and improve people’s ability to participate in their usual activities.”
The participants who received acupuncture reported less stiffness and discomfort as compared to those who received sham acupuncture or arthritis education. This isn’t the only large study to report similar results. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that acupuncture for osteoarthritis works, it has still taken a backseat to Western techniques.
A study published this month in the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage, brought acupuncture for knee pain to the forefront once again. A systemic review conducted at York University analyzed 114 trials on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, which included 22 treatments and 9,709 patients. The goal was to compare the effectiveness of acupuncture to other physical treatments. Not surprisingly acupuncture was statistically significantly better than standard care, sham acupuncture, and the runners-up, muscle strengthening exercises, interferential therapy, TENS, pulsed electrical stimulation, balneotherapy, and aerobic exercise.
Co-researcher Dr. Hugh MacPherson noted, “Most international guidance for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee doesn’t include acupuncture, but it has probably got the best outcome across all the physical therapies.”
MacPherson’s comment illustrates the importance of acupuncture education. Though it’s been proven to help restore joint function and decrease pain, it’s not the first line of defense when it comes to treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Instead, therapies that pose the risk of dangerous side effects are prescribed. By spreading the word about traditional Chinese medicine, its benefits, and the importance of seeing a licensed acupuncturist, patients will have another option.
Individuals need not suffer in silence or go with medical advice that they aren’t comfortable with. A fully trained, licensed acupuncturist has the knowledge and education to safely help patients enhance their quality of life. If you’re suffering from knee pain or another condition that hasn’t responded to Western medicine, or you’d like to try a side-effect-free, natural route, visit TryAcupuncture.org to find a licensed practitioner in your area. Simply because a doctor doesn’t suggest acupuncture, doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable treatment.