Acupuncture Relieves Osteoarthritis Pain

April 03, 2012

New Study Shows Acupuncture Relieves Osteoarthritis Pain

Vol 15 Issue 60

Good news for sufferers of painful osteoarthritis: a new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demonstrates that electroacupuncture “inhibits osteoarthritis-induced pain by enhancing serotonin receptor activity.”

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and the leading cause of chronic disability in the United States. Symptoms include stiffness as well as swelling and pain in the joints, often made worse by exercise and when placing weight or pressure on the joint.

There is no known medical cure for osteoarthritis. Medical treatment normally involves prescription painkillers, which can have serious side effects. Electroacupuncture treatment offers drug-free pain relief, with no side effects.

In addition to drugs, medical treatment routinely includes exercise and lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes. But when pain becomes debilitating, which is all too common, major joint replacement surgery is the usual call.

Any treatment which can head off or delay major surgery is certainly welcome, and according to this new study, that is what this specialized electroacupuncture might soon offer osteoarthritis patients.

The study, performed at the Center for Integrative Medicine laboratories at the University of Maryland, addressed osteoarthritis in the knees of lab rats. The procedure involved both real electroacupuncture, and “sham” electroacupuncture as a control. Electroacupuncture stimulation was alternated between two hind-leg Acupuncture points – GB30 and ST36 – and resulted in a significant reduction in weight-bearing joint pain, compared to the sham electroacupuncture.

The treatment reduced osteoarthritis-induced pain by measurably activating serotonergic neurons that project to the spinal cord, enhancing spinal receptors that play an important role in pain modulation at the spinal level, the study said.

The researchers added that they don’t fully understand how electroacupuncture “works” to accomplish such remarkable ends, but the results speak for themselves.

This study supports the positive findings of several earlier studies using electroacupuncture to treat knee pain. Clinical trials as long ago as 2004 and 2005 also reported that electroacupuncture significantly improved pain and joint function in patients with knee osteoarthritis, during a long-term follow-up period of up to 26 weeks.

“These basic and clinical studies demonstrate that acupuncture can benefit osteoarthritis patients,” the Maryland study concluded.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old saying goes. There are no shortage ofalternative health practitioners, including acupuncturists, chiropractors and many others, who also offer comprehensive diet and lifestyle regiments which can go a long way towards preventing osteoarthritis in the first place, and relieving it when it is present.

SOURCE: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2011,