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Chinese Acupuncture May Improve Knee Osteoarthritis

But researchers say more research needed to determine if effects are due to psychology of needling

THURSDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Traditional Chinese acupuncture may be more effective than medical management alone in the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a study in the July issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Hanns-Peter Scharf, M.D., of the University Hospital Mannheim in Germany, and colleagues conducted a 26-week study of 1,007 osteoarthritis patients who received up to six physiotherapy sessions and as-needed anti-inflammatory drugs. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive an additional 10 sessions of traditional Chinese acupuncture, 10 sessions of sham acupuncture or conservative therapy.

The researchers defined success as at least a 36 percent improvement in scores on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) score. They found success rates of 53.1 percent for traditional Chinese acupuncture, 51 percent for sham acupuncture and 29.1 percent for conservative therapy.

"We believe that our findings support the role of acupuncture in the multimodal treatment of patients with pain and functional limitations due to osteoarthritis of the knee, even if the mechanisms of its effects remain unclear," the authors conclude. "Acupuncture could improve conservative therapy and reduce the use of analgesics. Further investigation is necessary to determine whether the mechanism of the observed effect of acupuncture is due to physiologic effects of needling, intensity of provider contact, or placebo effects."

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