Osteoarthritis of the knee is common, affecting almost a tenth of the population aged over 55. The role of acupuncture in osteoarthritis remains controversial and few studies comparing acupuncture and drug treatment have been conducted.
A total of 88 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly divided into two groups, one receiving acupuncture plus diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug) and the other dummy (placebo) acupuncture plus diclofenac. Treatment lasted 12 weeks and levels of pain, stiffness, and physical function were monitored using recognised scales.
The acupuncture group had a greater reduction in pain and stiffness, improved physical functioning and quality of life than the placebo group.
Although the 12-week monitoring period may be insufficient to evaluate the effects of treatment in the medium term, acupuncture as a complementary therapy to drug treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee is more effective than drug treatment alone, say the authors.
Future research should extend the observation period after treatment in order to evaluate the duration of the improvement obtained and to establish treatment protocols, they conclude.