The joint disorder of osteoarthritis has been recognized as one of the most common medical conditions, affecting millions of people in Canada. This is particularly true for osteoarthritis of the knees, which has been identified as the number of reason for disability among Canadian adults.
Since no cure for this disorder has been discovered, the objective in managing this condition is to provide relief from pain and other symptoms. While there are already a number of options available today, it is heartening to note that another alternative, in the form of acupuncture, has been shown to be effective in managing knee osteoarthritis, according to the results of a large-scale study that was published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Large-Scale, Multi-Site Clinical Trial
For this multi-site clinical trial, 570 people diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis were recruited. These participants, who were aged 50 years or older, reported significant pain in the knee before joining the study. These subjects had not undergone any knee surgery or used steroid or similar therapies six months prior to the start of the clinical trial.
These participants were given acupuncture, “sham” acupuncture, or a self-help program on managing this joint disorder. Composed of 189 participants, the education group attended a total of six sessions over a 12-week period based on the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Self-Help Course.
40% Improvement in Pain and Function
At the conclusion of the study period, the researchers were able to determine that patients who had acupuncture experienced a 40 percent decrease in pain and a 40 percent improvement in function compared to baseline assessments. This improvement was noticeable even as early as week 8 of the study and increased gradually over the following weeks. These improvements were maintained even up to 26 weeks. Basis for the assessment was the Western Ontario McMasters Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC).
Significance of Study
Without doubt, osteoarthritis can be very devastating and can have a huge impact on the quality of life of a patient. The outcome of this study becomes very significant since it offers the millions of people suffering from osteoarthritis an alternative in the management of pain and improving function. This is certainly encouraging to the sufferers who may not be too comfortable in using medications to manage their conditions. Should it be shown by subsequent studies that acupuncture can indeed be very beneficial to those suffering from osteoarthritis, then perhaps we can make this traditional Chinese practice a part of mainstream medical therapy for this common disorder.