Knee Osteoarthritis – Research

Knee osteoarthritis pain was rated as ‘ evidence of potential positive effect’ in the USVA Evidence map of acupuncture (2014) (1, 2). In a network meta-analysis comparing 22 interventions in 152 studies, acupuncture was found to be equal to balneotherapy and superior to sham acupuncture, muscle-strengthening exercise, Tai Chi, weight loss, standard care, and aerobic exercise (in ranked order) (3). Acupuncture was also superior to standard care and muscle-strengthening exercises in a sub-analysis of moderate to high-quality studies (3). In a systematic review of 12 randomized controlled trials, acupuncture was found to significantly reduce pain intensity, to improve functional mobility and quality of life (4). Subgroup analysis showed a greater reduction in pain intensity when treatment lasted for more than four weeks (4). The reviewers concluded that ‘current evidence supports the use of acupuncture as an alternative for traditional analgesics in patients with osteoarthritis’ (4).


1. Biotext. Alternative therapies and Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold and White Card arrangements. In:  Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs, editor: Australian Government Department of  Veterans’ Affairs; 2010.

2. Hempel S, Taylor SL, Solloway MR, Miake-Lye IM, Beroes JM, Shanman R, et al. VA Evidence-based Synthesis  Program Reports. Evidence Map of Acupuncture. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs; 2014.

3. Corbett MS, Rice SJ, Madurasinghe V, Slack R, Fayter DA, Harden M, et al. Acupuncture and other physical  treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis  Cartilage. 2013 Sep;21(9):1290-8.

4. Manyanga T, Froese M, Zarychanski R, Abou-Setta A, Friesen C, Tennenhouse M, et al. Pain management with  acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med.  2014;14:312.