Acupuncture can help boost the power of drugs in reducing the pain suffered by patients with arthritis in their knees, researchers report.
Patients who got three-months worth of regular acupuncture treatments along with their normal arthritis care reported less pain and better ability to move than patients who got a sham acupuncture treatment, the researchers said.
“These data show that traditional Chinese acupuncture provides clinically important relief of pain and improvement in function in patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis when added to background therapy,” said Dr. Marc Hochberg, a rheumatologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who worked on the study.
Hochberg and colleagues studied 570 patients for their study, presented Sunday night to a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in San Antonio, Texas.
The patients, with an average age of 65, got either traditional Chinese acupuncture involving needled, sham acupuncture with the needles tapped at certain points but not inserted, or basic care including anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics.
The acupuncture patients got 23 treatments. Six months later the patients filled out a questionnaire called the WOMAC Osteoarthritis index. The sham acupuncture group reported a score of -2.92 for pain and -9.87 for movement, compared to -3.79 for pain and -12.42 for the group that got real acupuncture.
Osteoarthritis affects more than 17 million Americans over the age of 65 and in the knee is marked by a breakdown of cartilage.