Background: Using an open randomised controlled study, we examined the effectiveness of manual and electroacupuncture on symptom relief for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Methods: Patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee were randomised to one of three treatment groups. Group A had acupuncture alone, group B had acupuncture but continued on their symptomatic medication, and group C used their symptomatic medication for the first five weeks and then had a course of acupuncture added. Patients receiving acupuncture were treated twice weekly over five weeks. Needles were inserted (with manual and electrical stimulation) in acupuncture points for pain and stiffness, selected according to traditional acupuncture theory for treating Bi syndrome. Patients were assessed by a blinded observer before treatment, after five weeks' treatment and at one month follow up, using a visual analogue pain scale (VAS) and the Western Ontario McMaster (WOMAC) questionnaire for osteoarthritis of the knee.
Results: The 30 patients in our study were well matched for age, body mass index, disease duration, baseline VAS pain score and baseline WOMAC scores. Repeated measure analyses gave a highly significant improvement in pain (VAS) after the courses of acupuncture in groups A (P = 0.012) and B (P=0.001); there was no change in group C until after the course of acupuncture, when the improvement was significant (P = 0.001). Similarly significant changes were seen with the WOMAC pain and stiffness scores. These benefits were maintained during the one month after the course of acupuncture. Patients' rating of global assessment was higher than that of the acupuncturist.
Conclusion: We conclude that manual and electroacupuncture causes a significant improvement in the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee, either on its own or as an adjunct therapy, with no loss of benefit after one month.