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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Acupuncture May Help Knee Arthritis

Short-Term Benefit Seen in Study; Long-Term Effects Unclear

Longer View

Those patterns didn't hold in the follow-up surveys.

At six months and one year, there weren't significant differences between the groups, write the researchers.

Those on the waitlist eventually got real acupuncture. They followed the same pattern as the first real acupuncture group -- short-term improvement that faded after treatment ended.

Second Opinion

Acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis is also covered in a Lancet editorial.

"Certainly, a major benefit patients report is that acupuncture makes them feel better. Making patients feel better is important," write biochemist Andrew Moore and colleagues. They work at the Pain Research Unit at Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England.

Possibly, some trials have failed to adequately measure that benefit, they continue.

But "we are still some way short of having conclusive evidence that acupuncture is beneficial in arthritis or in any other condition, other than in a statistical or artificial way," write Moore and colleagues.

"Acupuncture is widely used by patients with chronic pain although there is little evidence of its effectiveness," write Witt and colleagues.

Third Viewpoint

Experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services see acupuncture a little differently.

Two years ago, they issued an assessment of acupuncture for osteoarthritis. They had reviewed 19 studies on the topic. Not all dwelt on knee arthritis.

Most studies showed some benefit from acupuncture compared with no treatment, the review states. However, it also states that real acupuncture didn't have an edge over sham acupuncture in most studies.

Overall, "the evidence was probably sufficient' to justify acupuncture as a second- or third-line treatment for a patient who isn't responding to conventional treatments, not tolerating medication, or is experiencing recurrent pain," states the review.

But the evidence didn't justify using acupuncture as an initial treatment, the review continues.

In 1997, a panel of scientists from the National Institutes of Health stated that while acupuncture studies were mixed, they had seen "promising" results for acupuncture in adults with postoperative and chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, as well as postoperative dental pain.

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Reviewed on February 01, 2007

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