Acupuncture Beats Surgery for Knee Osteoarthritis
Slowly but steadily, the United States continues to draw more influence from traditional Eastern medicine. Now, new research has found that acupuncture can relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis and even offer an effective, yet low-cost, alternative to surgery. Yes, you read that right: you may be able to avoid painful and debilitating surgery by choosing acupuncture instead!
The study, which was published in the online medical journal Acupuncture in Medicine, comprised 90 patients who all had knee osteoarthritis. The actual research took place in two different clinics over the course of two years.
So . . . what were the scientists hoping to achieve? Well, surgery is often used to treat knee osteoarthritis (which is the most common form of osteoarthritis), but one in seven patients can continue to experience severe pain for several years after the operation. The researchers hoped that acupuncture would be a less-costly, effective alternative. And it seems the patients were thinking the same thing. A third of the subjects did not want surgery at all, whether or not the acupuncture worked. All of the patients who took part in the study had severe symptoms that included constant pain (especially at night), and the inability to walk long distances.
Each patient attended an acupuncture session once a week for an entire month, and then once every six weeks. After receiving an average of 17 sessions, each patient then had their symptoms measured with a validated score system called MYMOP. The results? Clinically significant improvements could be seen in pain levels, functional capacity, and stiffness after just one month of treatments. After the initial round of treatments, symptoms only continued to get better.
This isn’t the first time a study showed the promising way acupuncture can help treat knee osteoarthritis. Several years ago, a very large study took place at the University of Maryland that spanned more than 500 patients. The subjects who received professional acupuncture again showed significant improvements and reduction in pain. An older study dating back to 2001 spanned seven trials and represented almost 400 patients, and though evidence of improved functionality was inconclusive, there was very strong evidence suggesting that acupuncture helped to greatly reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis.
Know Your Options
It’s important to realize that all of these studies stressed the very apparent differences between “sham” acupuncture and “real” acupuncture. The fake acupuncture might not improve anything but the headache you had that morning, and only serves as a great money sink. Though a few studies have shown that there are very few differences between the two, many more suggest that the health benefits of sham acupuncture are more limited. Before you head to the nearest acupuncture clinic, know your options.
"Acupuncture Offers Low-Cost Alternative to Knee Surgery for Osteoarthritis, Research Finds." ScienceDaily.com. ScienceDaily, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2012. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820205054.htm>.
"Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Systematic Review." Wiley.com. Wiley Online Library, n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
Low Dog, MD, Tieraona. "Is Acupuncture Effective In Treating Pain Associated With Osteoarthritis?" ABCNews.com. ABC News, 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 29 Aug. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainArthritis/story?id=4583539#.UDppKtZlRgg>.