Arthritis is a generalised name for joint disease and there are a range of types and causes. It is a chronic condition which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. It can be very disabling, especially when it occurs in the hips, knees or hands. The symptoms may persist for many years and may worsen over time. Conventional therapies help to manage the pain and inflammation, but are not always effective and may have side-effects.
Acupuncture has been used by people with arthritis for many years, because they find it helps with the pain, eases stiffness and can improve the physical functioning of the joints. It also has the advantage of having very low risks or side effects.
The success stories about arthritis from acupuncturists and their patients have led to a significant number of researchers setting up clinical trials to verify the truth of these claims. In particular, there has been a lot of research about osteoarthritis of the knee.
In 2007, a systematic review, which is most reliable form of research evidence, looked at the results from thirteen clinical trials of acupuncture for arthritis of the knee. These trials represented 1334 patients, and the authors found that
‘Acupuncture …. is significantly superior to sham acupuncture and to no additional intervention, in improving pain and function in patients with chronic knee pain.’ (White et al 2007)
Evidence from the 2006 Kyoto conference shows that acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee has a biological effect, a large clinical effect in practice, negligible risk, and a cost effectiveness which is well within the usual acceptable limit.
‘On present evidence, acupuncture is likely to provide a replacement for NSAIDs, being at least equally effective, probably more cost effective, and much safer.’ (White and Kawakita 2006)
Most recently of all, in September 2012, the largest study of acupuncture for chronic pain was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Individual patient data from 29 randomized controlled trials with 17,922 patients were analysed and the results show that
‘acupuncture is better than usual care and better than sham acupuncture for the treatment of back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and chronic headaches.’
In this video, Hugh MacPherson, Senior Research Fellow at the University of York, talks briefly about this research -
So, if you’d like to try acupuncture for your arthritis, please contact me and make an appointment. To find out what happens at your first appointment, or hear how other people have found receiving acupuncture, just click here.
White A, Foster N.E , Cummings M, Barlos P. (2007) Acupuncture treatment for chronic knee pain: a systematic review. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2007 Mar;46(3):384-90.
White A, Kawakita K.(2006) The evidence on acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis – editorial summary on the implications for health policy. Acupuncture in Medicine;24(Suppl):S71-76.