Acupuncture/ pressureCochrane LibraryOsteoarthritisPain

Review: Acupuncture to treat peripheral joint osteoarthritis

This Cochrane review covers osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, or hand.

First, the details.

  • 16 studies involving 3498 people were included.
  • 12 included only people with osteoarthritis of the knee, 3 only osteoarthritis of the hip, and 1 a mix of people with osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee.

And, the results.

  • Compared to sham control, acupuncture showed statistically significant, but not clinical significant, 4% improvement.
    • Short-term benefits of acupuncture were smaller and non-significant when treatment evaluators were unaware of the treatment assignment.
  • Compared to a waiting list control
    • Acupuncture showed statistically significant, clinically relevant 13% short-term improvements in osteoarthritis pain and function.
  • In direct comparisons of acupuncture with the ‘supervised osteoarthritis education’ and the ‘physician consultation’ control groups
    • Acupuncture showed clinically relevant short- and long-term improvements in pain and function.
  • In direct comparisons of acupuncture with ‘home exercises/advice leaflet’ and ‘supervised exercise’
    • Acupuncture was similar to controls.
  • Acupuncture added to an exercise program
    • There were no greater improvements than with exercise alone.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Sham-controlled trials show statistically significant benefits; however, these benefits are small.”

Furthermore, they believe that much of the reported benefit “may be due to expectation or placebo effects.”

1/23/10 16:00 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.