Acupuncture Research: Knee Pain & Knee Osteoarthritis

Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis.

Corbett MS, Rice SJ, Madurasinghe V, Slack R, Fayter DA, Harden M, Sutton AJ, Macpherson H, Woolacott NF; University of York, UK. Electronic address: mark.corbett@york.ac.uk.

Abstract

Objective:  To compare the effectiveness of acupuncture with other relevant physical treatments for alleviating pain due to knee osteoarthritis.

Design:  Systematic review with network meta-analysis, to allow comparison of treatments within a coherent framework. Comprehensive searches were undertaken up to January 2013 to identify randomised controlled trials in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, which reported pain.

Results:  Of 156 eligible studies, 114 trials (covering 22 treatments and 9,709 patients) provided data suitable for analysis. Most trials studied short-term effects and many were classed as being of poor quality with high risk of bias, commonly associated with lack of blinding (which was sometimes impossible to achieve). End of treatment results showed that eight interventions: interferential therapy, acupuncture, TENS, pulsed electrical stimulation, balneotherapy, aerobic exercise, sham acupuncture, and muscle-strengthening exercise produced a statistically significant reduction in pain when compared with standard care. In a sensitivity analysis of satisfactory and good quality studies, most studies were of acupuncture (11 trials) or muscle-strengthening exercise (9 trials); both interventions were statistically significantly better than standard care, with acupuncture being statistically significantly better than muscle-strengthening exercise (standardised mean difference: 0.49, 95% credible interval 0.00-0.98).

Conclusions:  As a summary of the current available research, the network meta-analysis results indicate that acupuncture can be considered as one of the more effective physical treatments for alleviating osteoarthritis knee pain in the short-term. However, much of the evidence in this area of research is of poor quality, meaning there is uncertainty about the efficacy of many physical treatments.

Copyright © 2013 Osteoarthritis Research Society International. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Objectifying specific and nonspecific effects of acupuncture: a double-blinded randomised trial in osteoarthritis of the knee.

Karner M, Brazkiewicz F, Remppis A, Fischer J, Gerlach O, Stremmel W, Subramanian SV, Greten HJ.; Department of Internal Medicine, Heidelberg University Hospital, Im Neuenheimer Feld 410, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:427265. doi: 10.1155/2013/427265.

ABSTRACT

Background:  Acupuncture was recently shown to be effective in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. However, controversy persists whether the observed effects are specific to acupuncture or merely nonspecific consequences of needling. Therefore, the objective of this study is to determine the efficacy of different acupuncture treatment modalities.

Materials and Methods:  We compared between three different forms of acupuncture in a prospective randomised trial with a novel double-blinded study design. One-hundred and sixteen patients aged from 35 to 82 with osteoarthritis of the knee were enrolled in three study centres. Interventions were individualised classical/ modern semistandardised acupuncture and non-specific needling. Blinded outcome assessment comprised knee flexibility and changes in pain according to the WOMAC score.

Results and Discussion:  Improvement in knee flexibility was significantly higher after classical Chinese acupuncture (10.3 degrees; 95% CI 8.9 to 11.7) as compared to modern acupuncture (4.7 degrees; 3.6 to 5.8). All methods achieved pain relief, with a patient response rate of 48 percent for non-specific needling, 64 percent for modern acupuncture, and 73 percent for classical acupuncture. Conclusion. This trial establishes a novel study design enabling double blinding in acupuncture studies. The data suggest a specific effect of acupuncture in knee mobility and both non-specific and specific effects of needling in pain relief.

Acupuncture and knee osteoarthritis: a three-armed randomized trial.

Scharf HP, Mansmann U, Streitberger K, Witte S, Krämer J, Maier C, Trampisch HJ, Victor N.; University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany; Ann Intern Med. 2006 Jul 4;145(1):12-20.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND:

Despite the popularity of acupuncture, evidence of its efficacy for reducing pain remains equivocal.

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the efficacy and safety of traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA) compared with sham acupuncture (needling at defined nonacupuncture points) and conservative therapy in patients with chronic pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee.

DESIGN:

Randomized, controlled trial.

SETTING:

315 primary care practices staffed by 320 practitioners with at least 2 years’ experience in acupuncture.

PATIENTS:

1007 patients who had had chronic pain for at least 6 months due to osteoarthritis of the knee (American College of Rheumatology [ACR] criteria and Kellgren-Lawrence score of 2 or 3). Interventions: Up to 6 physiotherapy sessions and as-needed anti-inflammatory drugs plus 10 sessions of TCA, 10 sessions of sham acupuncture, or 10 physician visits within 6 weeks. Patients could request up to 5 additional sessions or visits if the initial treatment was viewed as being partially successful.

MEASUREMENTS:

Success rate, as defined by at least 36% improvement in Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) score at 26 weeks. Additional end points were WOMAC score and global patient assessment.

RESULTS:

Success rates were 53.1% for TCA, 51.0% for sham acupuncture, and 29.1% for conservative therapy. Acupuncture groups had higher success rates than conservative therapy groups (relative risk for TCA compared with conservative therapy, 1.75 [95% CI, 1.43 to 2.13]; relative risk for sham acupuncture compared with conservative therapy, 1.73 [CI, 1.42 to 2.11]). There was no difference between TCA and sham acupuncture (relative risk, 1.01 [CI, 0.87 to 1.17]).

LIMITATIONS:

There was no blinding between acupuncture and traditional therapy and no monitoring of acupuncture compliance with study protocol. In general, practitioner-patient contacts were less intense in the conservative therapy group than in the TCA and sham acupuncture groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

Compared with physiotherapy and as-needed anti-inflammatory drugs, addition of either TCA or sham acupuncture led to greater improvement in WOMAC score at 26 weeks. No statistically significant difference was observed between TCA and sham acupuncture, suggesting that the observed differences could be due to placebo effects, differences in intensity of provider contact, or a physiologic effect of needling regardless of whether it is done according to TCA principles.

Acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis–a randomizImageed trial using a novel sham.

Manheimer E, Lim B, Lao L, Berman B.; University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21207, USA. bberman@umm.edu; Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24 Suppl:S7-14.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND:

Evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture for reducing the pain and dysfunction of osteoarthritis is equivocal.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine whether acupuncture provides greater pain relief and improved function compared with sham acupuncture or education in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

DESIGN:

Randomised, controlled trial.

SETTING:

Two outpatient clinics (an integrative medicine facility and a rheumatology facility) located in academic teaching hospitals and one clinical trials facility.

PATIENTS:

570 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (mean age [+/-SD], 65.5 +/- 8.4 years).

INTERVENTION:

23 true acupuncture sessions over 26 weeks. Controls received 6 two-hour sessions over 12 weeks or 23 sham acupuncture sessions over 26 weeks.

MEASUREMENTS:

Primary outcomes were changes in the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain and function scores at 8 and 26 weeks. Secondary outcomes were patient global assessment, 6-minute walk distance, and physical health scores of the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36).

RESULTS:

Participants in the true acupuncture group experienced greater improvement in WOMAC function scores than the sham acupuncture group at 8 weeks (mean difference, -2.9 [95% CI, -5.0 to -0.8]; P=0.01) but not in WOMAC pain score (mean difference, -0.5 [CI, -1.2 to 0.2]; P=0.18) or the patient global assessment (mean difference, 0.16 [CI, -0.02 to 0.34]; P> 0.2). At 26 weeks, the true acupuncture group experienced significantly greater improvement than the sham group in the WOMAC function score (mean difference, -2.5 [CI, -4.7 to -0.4]; P=0.01), WOMAC pain score (mean difference, -0.87 [CI, -1.58 to -0.16]; P=0.003), and patient global assessment (mean difference, 0.26 [CI, 0.07 to 0.45]; P=0.02).

LIMITATIONS:

At 26 weeks, 43% of the participants in the education group and 25% in each of the true and sham acupuncture groups were not available for analysis.

CONCLUSIONS:

Acupuncture seems to provide improvement in function and pain relief as an adjunctive therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee when compared with credible sham acupuncture and education control groups.

Acupuncture treatment for chronic knee pain: a systematic review.

White A, Foster NE, Cummings M, Barlas P.; Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Plymouth, UK. adrian.white@pms.ac.uk; Rheumatology (Oxford). 2007 Mar;46(3):384-90.

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES:

To evaluate the effects of acupuncture on pain and function in patients with chronic knee pain.

METHODS:

Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of adequate acupuncture. Computerized databases and reference lists of articles were searched in June 2006. Studies were selected in which adults with chronic knee pain or osteoarthritis of the knee were randomized to receive either acupuncture treatment or a control consisting of sham (placebo) acupuncture, other sham treatments, no additional intervention (usual care), or an active intervention. The main outcome measures were short-term pain and function, and study validity was assessed using a modification of a previously published instrument.

RESULTS:

Thirteen RCTs were included, of which eight used adequate acupuncture and provided WOMAC outcomes, so were combined in meta-analyses. Six of these had validity scores of more than 50%. Combining five studies in 1334 patients, acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture for both pain (weighted mean difference in WOMAC pain subscale score = 2.0, 95% CI 0.57-3.40) and for WOMAC function subscale (4.32, 0.60-8.05). The differences were still significant at long-term follow-up. Acupuncture was also significantly superior to no additional intervention. There were insufficient studies to compare acupuncture with other sham or active interventions.

CONCLUSIONS:

Acupuncture that meets criteria for adequate treatment is significantly superior to sham acupuncture and to no additional intervention in improving pain and function in patients with chronic knee pain. Due to the heterogeneity in the results, however, further research is required to confirm these findings and provide more information on long-term effects.

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