People with chronic arthritis are faced with a terrible choice: do they suffer from pain every day, or do they take pain relievers with scary side effects? Unfortunately, the pain medications used most often, NSAIDS like diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen, can damage the digestive system. They are also linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular complications. How could a person manage arthritic knee pain without such consequences?
Finding Solutions for Arthritic Knee Pain:
Q. I am a doctor who has suffered dual meniscus knee surgeries. Corticosteroid injection therapy was useless for my knee pain. In addition, surgery was ineffective in terms of reducing pain and discomfort; the knee condition worsened after surgery. If this were not a medical procedure, I would have asked for a refund.
I’ve used MSM and glucosamine, but they take a long time before any effect is apparent. For fast results, acupuncture seems to be the gold standard in therapy. Along with ice and medical massage, acupuncture gave me the best result. I was so impressed that I studied acupuncture and now use it in my practice.
What Works and What Doesn’t for Arthritic Knee Pain:
A. Recent research supports your experience. For example, a double-blind placebo-controlled study published in JAMA (May 16, 2017) found that the steroid triamcinolone injected into the knee worked no better than saline injections for arthritis pain relief. When knees were injected with steroid, however, they lost cartilage more quickly.
As for surgery, a recent analysis of previous studies found no long-term advantages over conservative management strategies (Brignardello-Petersen et al, BMJ Open, May 11, 2017). A group including surgeons, physiotherapists and patients has just issued guidelines discouraging arthroscopic surgery for knee arthritis and meniscus tears (Siemieniuk et al, BMJ, May 10, 2017).
Acupuncture for Arthritic Knee Pain:
We are glad to hear you have been so pleased with the results of acupuncture. A recent randomized controlled trial found that self-administered acupressure was better than “usual care” for older individuals with arthritic knee pain (Li et al, Arthritis Care & Research, online April 24, 2017). Oddly, sham acupressure (pressure on non-standard points) worked as well as the real deal. Readers who would like to learn more about acupuncture and other non-drug approaches to managing arthritis pain will find details in our online Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.