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Acupuncture Improves Osteoarthritis, Trial Shows

Mon Dec 20, 2004

By Karla Gale

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Acupuncture added to conventional therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee improves function and reduces pain, according to a clinical trial conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"We now have a result that suggests, in the largest, longest and most rigorously conducted study of acupuncture ever, that we have a new (add-on) therapy for millions of patients with degenerative arthritis," Dr. Stephen E. Straus, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, said at a press conference.

The study, led by Dr. Brian M. Berman and reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 570 patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis, all of whom continued with their prescription treatments.

They were also assigned to 23 sessions of traditional Chinese acupuncture or sham non-piercing acupuncture over the course of 26 weeks, or to a control group that received 6 two-hour education sessions over 12 weeks.

After eight weeks, participants in the true acupuncture group had a 10.77-point improvement in a standard osteoarthritis function score, significantly greater than those in sham acupuncture group (7.84-point improvement) or the education-only group (5.30 points).

After 26 weeks, both pain and function scores were significantly more improved in the true acupuncture group than in the sham group.

At the press conference, researcher Dr. Marc C. Hochberg said that "the maximum improvement in the sham group was about 30 percent in terms of calculated pain score and also the calculated score on functional impairment." In the true acupuncture group, the improvement was "between 40 percent and 45 percent in both pain and function scores."

Moreover, added Dr. Berman -- particularly in light of recent news about arthritis drugs -- "there were very few adverse events reported, none on which was thought to be treatment related."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, December 21, 2004.

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