A recent review has shown that acupuncture can reduce pain and improve mobility and quality-of-life for people with osteoarthritis [1].

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints; it is the most common form of arthritis. When a joint develops osteoarthritis, the cartilage covering the ends of the bones becomes rough and thin, and the bone underneath thickens. In severe cases, the cartilage can become so thin that the bones rub against each other and start to wear away. This loss of cartilage and erosion of bone can gradually change the shape of the joint, forcing the bones out of their normal position and causing pain and loss of mobility [2]. In Western medicine, treatment for osteoarthritis focuses on pain management, commonly using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or, in severe cases, narcotics.

In 2014, a review was carried out to identify whether acupuncture treatment was a more effective alternative for reducing pain in patients with osteoarthritis [1]. The authors of this review analysed the results of 12 trials, which had included a total of 1763 participants. The review showed that acupuncture patients had significant reductions in pain in comparison to participants who had received no treatment, sham (placebo) acupuncture, or usual care as described above. Acupuncture patients also gained significantly more functional mobility and reported better quality-of-life. The review also showed that the longer the course of treatment, the greater the reduction in pain. The authors recommended a minimum of 10 acupuncture sessions for chronic inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis.

In conclusion, the authors state that current evidence supports the use of acupuncture for patients with osteoarthritis.

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References:

[1] Manyanga T, Froese M, Zarychanski R, Abou-Setta A, Friesen C, Tennenhouse M, Shay BL. ‘Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Aug 23; 14(1): 312.

The full text of the article is available here.

[2] For more about Osteoarthritis, see the Arthritis Research UK website.