The knee is a particularly complex joint, and knee pain is often a product of playing a particular sport, or specific trauma to the knee. However knee pain isn't restricted to professional athletes, as people get older, the amount of cartilage in the knee decreases and becomes damaged, and many ligaments begin to lose some of their elasticity, making them more susceptible to pain and/or injury, leading to osteoarthritis.
Osteo-arthritis in the knee is a common condition, involving damage to articular cartilage and other structures in and around joints - about 10% of people aged over 55 years in the UK have painful knee osteoarthritis associated with mild to moderate disability. Many patients with osteoarthritis have significant pain and loss of function and will require treatment to control their symptoms. Disability due to osteoarthritis can limit quality of life and independent living, or the ability to care for a disabled spouse.
Medical treatment options for osteoarthritis involve a combination of non-drug and drug interventions. The non-drug interventions include; lifestyle measures (e.g. weight loss, exercise); walking aids; wedged insoles; local therapy involving heat or cold; physiotherapy; transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS); cognitive behavioural therapy; and food supplements (e.g. glucosamine). Drugs used include paracetamol, oral or topical NSAIDs, capsaicin, opioids and intra-articular corticosteroid injections. Surgical interventions such as knee replacement are used when the arthritis is severe or pain is not resolving with less invasive methods.
Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in relieving certain types of knee pain, especially arthritic conditions of the knee and knee joint. Studies have confirmed that acupuncture is beneficial in reducing knee pain, stiffness and physical disability in patients with osteo-arthritis in the knee and knee-related problems. It can ease the discomfort some subjects feel while waiting for knee surgery. There are many different approaches to acupuncture and most use the same points local to the problem to help to reduce the pain and low grade inflammation associated with the condition. A traditional acupuncturist will also be looking at your overall constitutional balances to establish whether this is a local problem brought on by over-use or injury, or whether it is a symptom of a more general underlying pattern. Traditional acupuncture treats the person and the condition, and its primary aim is not simply to get people better but to keep them well.
If you would like to know more about acupuncture, see our short video which show’s our approach
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- National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions, 2008. Osteoarthritis: national clinical guideline for care and management in adults [online].Available: http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG059FullGuideline.pdf
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- Ahsin S et al. Clinical and endocrinological changes after electro-acupuncture treatment in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Pain 2009; 147: 60-6.