Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint pathology, characterised by bony growth in or around the joint, the wearing away of joint cartilage, and the narrowing of the joint space. Knee OA specifically is also often associated with meniscus damage. Although OA is considered an old-age injury, excessive use due to sport, or increased wear-and-tear from previous surgeries can cause OA in younger people.
Unlike most musculoskeletal pathologies, OA of the knee is irreversible, which means that the primary goal isn't to mend damaged tissue but to manage pain. Once that becomes unattainable, then the knee needs to be replaced.
The current standard practice for minimising the pain of OA is three-fold:
These interventions work very well and have contributed to a marked decrease of knee replacement surgeries over the last several years. However, a 2013 meta-analysis of 22 studies found that acupuncture was more effective than NSAIDs in managing the pain of knee OA.
A separate study in 2012 concluded that acupuncture was a cost-effective pain intervention for OA patients.
These studies looked at people without complicating factors around their OA (meniscus tears, ligament damage, bone spurs etc.), so the results may not translate to sound medical advice for you personally, but I recommend asking your doctor or physiotherapist if acupuncture is a viable pain-relief option for you.
For more information, on OA or acupuncture, contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corbett MS, Rice SJ, Madurasinghe V, Slack R, Fayter DA, Harden M, et al. Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Sep;21(9):1290-8
Kim SY, Lee H, Chae Y, Park HJ, Lee H. A systematic review of cost-effectiveness analyses alongside randomised controlled trials of acupuncture. Acupunct Med. 2012 Dec;30(4):273-85
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Dr Mitch Clark