Acupuncture is Effective for Knee Osteoarthritis

(Last Updated On: May 9, 2018)

Acupuncture treats arthritis

In multiple studies, independent medical researchers have determined that acupuncture has an incredibly high effective rate for treating knee osteoarthritis.

We reported that acupuncture reduces sciatica pain in another article.

Osteoarthritis patients tested

The research comes from China’s Yubei District Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital of Chongqing City. The doctors randomized and tested 180 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee at different stages of severity.

The patients were first divided into groups reflecting their relative severity – chronic stage, tendon lesion stage and fascia cramp stage. From there the patients were randomized into a graduated (“staged”) acupuncture treatment group and an electroacupuncture group.

Each treatment group utilized a known efficacious type of acupuncture treatment, yet each was distinct from the other – in order to test the effectiveness of different acupuncture treatments currently in practice. The graduated (staged) treatment utilized manual needle therapy and thermal needle therapy – in treatments distinct for each stage of severity.

The electroacupuncture treatment consisted of the same treatment of three acupuncture points (or “acupoints”) – the Liangqiu (ST 34), the Xuehai (SP 10), and the Yanglingquan (GB 34) acupoints. In other words, regardless of their severity, all the patients in this group received the same treatment.

The researchers found that both treatment methods resulted in incredibly high “effective rates” – a reduction in pain and increase in mobility. Among the graduated acupuncture treatment groups, the effective rate was 96%, and in the electroacupuncture group, the total effective rate was 91%. In other words, of the graduated acupuncture group, 87 of the 90 patients who underwent treatment had a reduction of pain and increase in mobility. And among the electroacupuncture group, 82 of the 90 patients treated had pain reduction and increased knee mobility.

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The researchers also measured another component, that of “remarkable effective rate” – which refers to those for which the treatment halted their osteoporosis in a more significant way – reversing pain and increasing mobility significantly. For this “remarkable effective rate” the staged treatment resulted in 89%, and the electroacupuncture treatment resulted in 62% effectiveness.

The researchers concluded:

“The different acupuncture methods at the three stages improve obviously the clinical effect and are highly targeted. The mechanism of the three stages on “meridian muscle region pathology” and the treatment based on the disease stages can be the effective approach to knee osteoarthritis.”



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Other research confirms results

The results of this study are confirmed by a study done last year at the Suzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Here doctors randomly divided 74 patients with knee osteoarthritis into two groups.

For four weeks they treated one group with electroacupuncture and the second group was treated with warming needle moxibustion. The acupoints used in this study were Dubi (ST 35), Neixiyan (EX-LE 4), Xuehai (SP 10), Zusanli (ST 36), Yanglingquan (GB 34).

This study resulted in a “markedly effective rate” of 64% in the electroacupuncture group and 40% in the warming needle moxibustion group. This “markedly effective rate” corresponds with the “remarkable effective rate” arrived at in the new study.

Here the researchers noted the link between knee osteoarthritis and a syndrome called kidney deficiency/marrow insufficiency pattern:

“Electroacupuncture and the warming needle moxibustion have their own advantages in the treatment of KOA of kidney deficiency and marrow insufficiency pattern/syndrome. Electroacupuncture is advantageous at analgesia and the warming needle moxibustion is at relieving joint stiffness. The total efficacy of electroacupuncture is superior to that of the warming needle moxibustion.”


Cheng Y, Wu K, Cheng Z, Zhu Y, Yang ZG, Ma H, Wang SW, Jiang ZL. Randomized controlled study on the treatment of knee osteoarthritis with different acupuncture methods at different stages. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2013 Jun;33(6):508-12.

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Gao J, Ouyang BS, Zhang Y, Li J, Yang HZ, Ji LL, Wu YJ, Wang W. Comparison of the clinical therapeutic effects between electroacupuncture and warming needle moxibustion for knee osteoarthritis of kidney deficiency and marrow insufficiency pattern/syndrome. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 May;32(5):395-8.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact: [email protected]

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