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Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis involves damage to articular cartilage and other structures in and around joints, with variable levels of inflammation. (Hunter 2006) The most commonly affected joints are the knee and the hip.

For example, it is a common condition; about 10% of people aged over 55 years in the UK have painful knee osteoarthritis associated with mild to moderate disability. (Peat 2001) Many patients with osteoarthritis have significant pain and loss of function, often episodically, and will require treatment to control their symptoms. Around 25% of those with knee osteoarthritis are severely disabled. (Peat 2001) Every year, symptomatic knee osteoarthritis accounts for about 0.5% of all primary care consultations by those aged over 55 years, rising to 1% for those over 70 years. (Peat 2001) Disability due to osteoarthritis can limit the quality of life and independent living, or the ability to care for a disabled spouse. (Arden 2006, Dawson 2005, Dawson 2004)


How acupuncture can help

Evidence from a systematic review suggests that moxibustion is more effective than conventional drug therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as in rheumatic conditions in general, and also that it improves benefits when added to conventional drugs (Choi 2011). Several systematic reviews of acupuncture for osteoarthritis of peripheral joints/knee and hip/knee alone have concluded that it is statistically superior to sham acupuncture and to usual physician care, and similar in benefit to some other active interventions such as exercise regimes (Kwon 2007; White 2007; Manheimer 2007, 2010). All of these, together with the expert consensus guidelines of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (Zhang 2008, 2009), recognise that it has clinically relevant benefits and a favourable safety profile, and they recommend acupuncture as a treatment option for osteoarthritis. In addition, it has been found to be cost-effective (Reinhold 2008).


Source British Acupuncture Council