Study finds acupuncture does not improve chronic knee pain

September 30, 2014, The JAMA Network Journals

Among patients older than 50 years with moderate to severe chronic knee pain, neither laser nor needle acupuncture provided greater benefit on pain or function compared to sham laser acupuncture, according to a study in the October 1 issue of JAMA.

Chronic affects many people older than 50 years and is the most common pain concern among older people consulting family physicians. Nonpharmacological approaches are central to managing chronic knee pain, and patients with frequently use complementary and alternative medicine. Acupuncture is the most popular of alternative medical systems, with use increasing over time. Although traditionally administered with needles, laser acupuncture (low-intensity laser therapy to acupuncture points) is a noninvasive alternative with evidence of benefit in some pain conditions. There is debate about the benefit of acupuncture for knee pain, according to background information in the article.

Rana S. Hinman, Ph.D., of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues randomly assigned 282 patients (50 years or older) with chronic knee pain to no acupuncture (control group, n = 71) or needle (n = 70), laser (n = 71), or sham laser (n = 70) acupuncture. Treatments were delivered for 12 weeks. Participants and acupuncturists were blinded to laser and sham (inactive) laser acupuncture.

There were no significant differences in primary outcomes (measures of knee pain and physical function) between active and sham acupuncture at 12 weeks or 1 year. Both needle and laser acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in pain compared with control at 12 weeks that were not maintained at 1 year. Needle acupuncture improved physical function at 12 weeks compared with control but was not different from and was not maintained at 1 year.

Most secondary outcomes (other pain and function measures, quality of life, global change, and 1-year follow-up) showed no difference. Needle acupuncture improved pain on walking at 12 weeks but was not maintained at 1 year.

The authors note that incidental factors such as treatment setting, patient expectations and attitudes (such as optimism), acupuncturist's confidence in treatment, and patient and acupuncturist interaction may influence outcomes. "In our study, benefits of acupuncture were exclusively attributed to incidental effects, given the lack of significant differences between active acupuncture and sham treatment. Continuous subjective measures, such as pain and self-reported physical function, as used in our study, are particularly subject to placebo responses."

"In patients older than 50 years with moderate or severe chronic knee pain, neither laser nor needle acupuncture conferred benefit over sham for or function. Our findings do not support for these patients."

Explore further: Placebo effects of different therapies not identical

More information: DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.12660

Related Stories

Placebo effects of different therapies not identical

July 31, 2013
Not all placebos are equal, and patients who respond to one placebo don't always respond to others, according to research published July 31 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jian Kong from Massachusetts General Hospital, ...

Acupuncture may relieve tonsillectomy pain in children

December 20, 2013
(HealthDay)—Preliminary evidence indicates that acupuncture may decrease perceived pain in children and adolescents following tonsillectomy, according to a review published in the December issue of the International Journal ...

Acupuncture reduces pain of chronic low back discomfort

April 8, 2013
(HealthDay)—Individualized acupuncture treatment reduces some negative symptoms of chronic low back pain (cLBP) better than sham treatment, according to a study published in the April issue of Spine.

Study suggests acupuncture may be better than no acupuncture, sham acupuncture for chronic pain

September 10, 2012
An analysis of patient data from 29 randomized controlled trials suggests that acupuncture may be better than no acupuncture or sham acupuncture for the treatment of some chronic pain, according to a report published Online ...

Understanding and managing chronic pain

July 4, 2014
Acupuncture, exercise and massage and physical therapy are among the ways to deal with chronic pain that don't require narcotic painkillers, says Nancy Elder, MD, professor of family and community medicine at the University ...

How does acupuncture work? The science behind the therapy explored

April 16, 2013
Even as medical acupuncture is increasingly being validated as an effective treatment for a broad range of medical conditions, what has been missing is an understanding of the basic science and mechanisms of action of this ...

Recommended for you

Consuming caffeine from coffee reduces incident rosacea

October 22, 2018
(HealthDay)—Caffeine intake from coffee is inversely associated with the risk for incident rosacea, according to a study published online Oct. 17 in JAMA Dermatology.

Home-based biofeedback therapy is effective option for tough-to-treat constipation

October 22, 2018
Biofeedback therapy used at home is about 70 percent effective at helping patients learn how to coordinate and relax bowel muscles and relieve one of the most difficult-to-treat types of constipation, investigators report.

New hope for cystic fibrosis

October 19, 2018
A new triple-combination drug treatment being trialled at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane could increase the life expectancy of patients with cystic fibrosis.

Bug guts shed light on Central America Chagas disease

October 18, 2018
In Central America, Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, is spread by the "kissing bug" Triatoma dimidiata. By collecting DNA from the guts of these bugs, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases ...

Rapid genomic sequencing of Lassa virus in Nigeria enabled real-time response to 2018 outbreak

October 18, 2018
Mounting a collaborative, real-time response to a Lassa fever outbreak in early 2018, doctors and scientists in Nigeria teamed up with researchers at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and colleagues to rapidly sequence the ...

Researchers cure drug-resistant infections without antibiotics

October 17, 2018
Biochemists, microbiologists, drug discovery experts and infectious disease doctors have teamed up in a new study that shows antibiotics are not always necessary to cure sepsis in mice. Instead of killing causative bacteria ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.