Researchers have found that treatment of knee osteoarthritis with electro-acupuncture, produces not only improvements in patients’ perceived levels of pain, but also changes in biochemical markers associated with stress and pain.
Forty patients aged 40 years and over, were given either ten daily electro-acupuncture treatments, or just sham acupuncture over the same period. Following real electro-acupuncture and compared with the sham group, patients reported significant improvements in pain, stiffness and disability, but this was accompanied by a significant rise in plasma beta-endorphin, and a significant fall in plasma cortisol. The team conclude that acupuncture is associated with physiological changes beyond those of the placebo effect.
(Clinical and Endocrinological Changes after Electro-Acupuncture Treatment in Patients with Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Pain, December 2009.)
American researchers have undertaken a review of ten randomised, controlled trials, involving a total of 1456 patients, and have concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for the pain and physical dysfunction caused by osteoarthritis of the knee.
(Acupuncture and Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials. Family Community Health Journal, July-September 2008.)
A blind, randomised, controlled trial has studied the effects of real compared to sham acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee. Sixty-eight patients with symptoms supported by X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis, were randomly allocated to receive either acupuncture, or non-penetrating sham acupuncture (in which the patients were lead to believe they had received real acupuncture).
The acupuncture group experienced a significantly greater improvement in the knee, including a significant improvement in pain, which was not seen in the sham group.
(A blinded randomised trial of acupuncture (manual and electroacupuncture) compared with a non-penetrating sham for the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Acupuncture in Medicine, June 2008.)
A multicentre, randomised controlled trial in Spain, has found that acupuncture in association with physiotherapy, is more beneficial for shoulder pain and function, than physiotherapy on its own. A total of 425 patients received fifteen sessions of physiotherapy over a three week period; additionally, some were randomised to receive either acupuncture, or mock TENS as a control.
Using a shoulder outcome scoring system, the acupuncture group improved by 16.6 points, compared with only 10.6 in the control group. Furthermore, 53% of the acupuncture patients had reduced their painkiller consumption, compared with only 30% in the control group.
(Single-Point Acupuncture; Physiotherapy for the Treatment of Painful Shoulder: a Multicentre Randomised Controlled Trial. Rheumatology, 1 June 2008.)
A randomised, controlled trial in Germany studying acupuncture for arthritic joints, and involving 3633 patients, has found it to be of significant benefit in controlling the pain of hip and knee osteoarthritis. Partly as a result of this trial, the German Ministry of Health is considering a recommendation from a committee of doctors, that acupuncture be available under medical insurance.
(Acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip: a randomized, controlled trial with an additional nonrandomized arm. Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 2006.)