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In the largest study of acupuncture to date, researchers found that the traditional Chinese therapy improves function and reduces the pain of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The study, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, included 570 patients with moderate-to-severe OA. Participants were assigned to receive either 23 sessions of traditional Chinese acupuncture, phony nonpiercing acupuncture over 26 weeks, or 6 two-hour education sessions (control group). After 8 weeks, the acupuncture group showed a 10.77-point improvement, while the phony acupuncture group showed an improvement of 7.84 points and the education group showed an improvement of 5.3 points on a standard OA function scale.
Researcher Dr. Mark C. Hochberg noted that in the true acupuncture group the improvement was between 40% and 45% in both pain and function scores. The researchers also noted that participants reported few adverse events?an important distinction in the light of recent news about arthritis drugs.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.