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Acupuncture Does Not Improve Chronic Knee Pain in Older Adults

First Posted: Oct 01, 2014 05:39 AM EDT

Acupuncture alone does not offer any significant benefit to seniors with moderate and severe chronic knee pain.  

Acupuncture is known to be helpful in maintaining good health and treating a wide range of health problems.  According to the Chinese, acupuncture is a great alternative for pain relief.  It is estimated that approximately 3 million Americans visit acupuncturists each year for relief from chronic pain. In the western world, acupuncture is gaining fast acceptance in mainstream medicine.

latest study by researchers from  the University of Melbourne shows some reservations about the pain relieving attributes of acupuncture. The researchers found that  patients older than 50 years with moderate to severe chronic knee pain did not receive any significant benefit from acupuncture.

One of the most common pain concerns among older people is chronic knee pain.  Other than use of medications, approaches like physical activity and exercise are important in managing pain with patients using complementary and alternative medicine.

The researchers assigned 282 patients with chronic knee pain to needle acupuncture, laser acupuncture, no acupuncture or an inactive laser treatment. The therapy was administered by General Practitioners. They delivered the treatment for 12 weeks with participants and acupuncturists blinded to whether laser or sham laser acupuncture was administered.

There was no significant difference noticed in the measure of knee pain as well the physical function between active and inactive acupuncture at 12 weeks or at a year.

"Both needle and laser acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in pain compared with the control group who had no treatment at 12 weeks. However, these results were not maintained at one year," said researcher Professor Kim Bennell from the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine (CHESM).  "Needle acupuncture improved physical function at 12 weeks compared with the control but was not different from sham acupuncture and was not maintained at one year." 

The secondary outcomes like quality of life, showed no difference. At  12 weeks, the needle acupuncture improved pain on walking though this benefit did not last for a year.

The finding was documented in Journal of American Medical Association. 

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