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Paper of the day - Acupuncture ‘does not work in knee osteoarthritis’

Acupuncture does no more than advice and exercise alone to improve pain in knee osteoarthrits over six months, according to the results of a new primary care study.

Sham, non-penetrating acupuncture is, if anything, more effective than true acupuncture.

The trial found no difference in the main outcome of the study – a scale measuring osteoarthritis pain after six months of treatment – between 116 patients who received advice and exercise, 119 patients who received advice and exercise and sham non-penetrating acupuncture, and 117 patients who received advice and exercise and true acupuncture.

But those who received the sham acupuncture had small but statistically significant improvements in pain intensity and unpleasantness every time they were measured. Those who had true acupuncture showed significant improvement only at two and six weeks.

The patients, referred to 37 physiotherapy centres by GPs in the Midlands, were clinically diagnosed to have OA.

‘Our findings make it difficult to sustain the argument that the observed effects of acupuncture are explained by specific physiological mechanisms of needling and de qi sensations', the researchers conclude.

British Medical Journal, Online First

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