Acupuncture for osteoarthritis

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A Cochrane review published in 2010 presents what we know from research about the effect of acupuncture on osteoarthritis.

The review shows that in people with osteoarthritis,

-Acupuncture may lead to small improvements in pain and physical function after 8 weeks.

-Acupuncture may lead to small improvements in pain and physical function after 26 weeks.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the joints, such as your knee or hip. When the joint loses cartilage, the bone grows to try and repair the damage. Instead of making things better, however, the bone grows abnormally and makes things worse. For example, the bone can become misshapen and make the joint painful and unstable. This can affect your physical function or ability to use your knee.

According to the philosophy of traditional acupuncture, energy circulates in 'meridians' located throughout the body.  Pain or ill health happens when something occurs to cause this meridian energy circulation to be blocked. The way to restore health is to stimulate the appropriate combination of acupuncture points in the body by inserting very thin needles.  Sometimes in painful conditions, electrical stimulation along with the acupuncture is also used.  According to acupuncture theory, one way you can tell that acupuncture is relieving pain is that you may feel numbness or tingling, called de qi, where the needle is inserted.

Sham-controlled trials show statistically significant benefits; however, these benefits are small. Waiting list-controlled trials of acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis suggest statistically significant and clinically relevant benefits.

Please note that under national law claims of efficacy of treatment are required to be made with reference to evidence of a high standard. Traditionally acupuncture and moxibustion have been used to treat a wide variety of conditions however not all have been able to demonstrate evidence of efficacy within the constraints of clinical trials.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Nicole Trudgeon (Chinese medicine Practitioner). Nicole is a practitioner of acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine (AHPRA registered) at her Booragoon clinic and is a Chinese Medicine Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Perth campus.