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Acupuncture for Knee Pain

A controlled trial found acupuncture helped sore knees more than nothing--but not significantly more than sham acupuncture.

Australian researchers report no lasting benefits from acupuncture for chronic knee pain. The study included 282 middle aged volunteers with osteoarthritis. They were randomized into four groups. One received no treatment while another group got acupuncture with needles. The third group was treated with low-intensity lasers on the acupuncture points while the fourth group was also treated with the laser devices but the lasers were not activated. This was the sham acupuncture treatment.

After three months participants who received both needle and laser acupuncture had reduced pain compared to those who had received no treatment. There was no significant difference between the real acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups.

Nine months after the treatment stopped, there were no differences between any of the groups. The researchers interpret this as demonstrating no benefit from acupuncture, though there are few treatments that produce long lasting relief once they are discontinued.

[JAMA, Sept. 30, 2014]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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