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Electro-acupuncture May Aid in Easing Knee Pain

Posted: January 29, 2010

A modern twist on traditional acupuncture may bring some pain relief to people with knee arthritis, at least in the short term, a small study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Pain, looked at the effects of electro-acupuncture among 40 adults with knee osteoarthritis—the common "wear-and-tear" form of arthritis in which the cartilage cushioning the joints breaks down.

Electro-acupuncture is similar to traditional acupuncture, where fine needles are inserted into specific points in the skin. What's different is that the practitioner fits the needles with clips that are attached to a small device that delivers a continuous electrical impulse to stimulate the acupuncture point.

Among the patients in the current study, those who had a daily electro-acupuncture session for 10 consecutive days reported greater improvement in their pain compared with patients who received a "sham" version of the therapy. Patients in that latter group received acupuncture, but the needles were inserted at random points on the skin rather than traditional acupuncture sites. And while the needles were attached to the electrical device, it was not actually turned on.

The findings suggest that true electro-acupuncture may offer at least short-term pain relief to knee arthritis sufferers, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Sadia Ahsin of the Army Medical College Rawalpindi in Pakistan.