Question: Is acupuncture effective in treating pain associated with osteoarthritis?
Answer: I think one of the most exciting areas of research going on these days is actually the use of acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine for the relief of pain of osteoarthritis.
There was a very large study done at the University of Maryland under the directorship of Brian Burman, who is the lead author, in which they took more than 500 patients with osteoarthritis of the knees and they randomized them into different groups.
The group that actually received the real acupuncture, the true acupuncture in the way it should be delivered, actually had a significant reduction in pain and improvement in function. This has also been replicated in other studies that have been published in very prestigious journals such as the Lancet, one of the British medical journals.
What we find is that acupuncture is very effective for reducing the pain of many different varieties, and this is probably because it's stimulating endorphins and other kinds of pain relating chemicals in the body. Now acupuncture is only one part of a traditional Chinese medical system. And so you can go get acupuncture, but if you go to a traditional Chinese medical practitioner, they'll probably use a whole approach, which may include diet as well as acupuncture, and possibly herbal therapies.
This is a very ancient system. I think we have much to learn from it. But I would say right now the evidence is quite compelling that acupuncture can be a very effective tool. And this may be particularly important for people who cannot take many of the medications that we have to offer because of other underlying medical conditions that make those medications somewhat dangerous for them.
Acupuncture is really quite safe and acupuncturists are licensed in most states in the United States. So an easy one for people to try, and for pain conditions, check with your insurance company because many times it will cover acupuncture for pain type of conditions.