Acupuncture plus routine medical care can relieve knee and hip osteoarthritis pain and improve joint function within three months, a new study published in the November issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism indicates. The researchers, led by Claudia Witt of the University Medical Center in Berlin, designed the study to reflect general medical practice and was one of the largest acupuncture trials to date.
Assessing 3,553 osteoarthritis patients, the researchers compared 322 patients given up to 15 acupuncture sessions in the initial three-month period with 310 who received no acupuncture for the first three months. A third group of 2,921 patients who did not consent to randomization received the same treatment as the acupuncture group. All patients received routine primary care. Assessment with a pain/function index scale and health-related quality of life survey was given three times over the course of the study.
After the initial three months, the researchers found that those receiving acupuncture experienced less pain and joint stiffness. “Patients with chronic osteoarthritis of the knee or the hip who were treated with acupuncture in addition to routine care showed significant improvements in symptoms and quality of life compared with patients who received routine care alone,” the authors noted.
In an accompanying editorial, Tao Liu and Chen Liu of Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin, China suggest that acupuncture could be an important element of a multidisciplinary approach to treating OA. “In real-world primary care, few patients with osteoarthritis seek acupuncture as the sole treatment, and due to the inconclusive information regarding its efficacy, acupuncture is very likely an undervalued treatment option as an element of a multidisciplinary integrative approach to treating this disorder,” they wrote.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis, causing more than 7 million physician visits per year, second only to cardiovascular disease as the cause of adult chronic disability