The ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture can help ease pain and improve movement for people with arthritis of the knee, a new study concludes. "For the first time, a clinical...

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WASHINGTON — The ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture can help ease pain and improve movement for people with arthritis of the knee, a new study concludes.

“For the first time, a clinical trial with sufficient rigor, size, and duration has shown that acupuncture reduces the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee,” said Dr. Stephen Straus, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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In the largest clinical study of acupuncture reported to date, researchers studied 570 patients age 50 and over. Results were reported in yesterday’s issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The participants were divided into three groups — 190 received acupuncture, 191 underwent sham acupuncture and 189 followed the Arthritis Foundation’s self-help course for managing their problem.

The researchers said that by week eight, patients receiving acupuncture began showing a significant increase in function and by week 14 a significant decrease in pain, compared with the sham and control groups.

Overall, the scientists said, those who received acupuncture had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function.