Superficial needling acupuncture no better than sham procedure for knee osteoarthritis

12 Oct 2021
Acupuncture is said to realign the flow of “qi” that was disrupted in the body.
Acupuncture is said to realign the flow of “qi” that was disrupted in the body.

Superficial needling acupuncture for 4 weeks does not appear to be more effective than nonpenetration sham acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis (OA), a study has found.

“Acupuncture has been an alternative approach for pain management, but trial evidence is conflicting,” the authors said.

To address this, 86 patients with knee OA were randomized 1:1 to receive either superficial needling acupuncture treatment or sham acupuncture for 10 sessions over a 4-week treatment period, followed by a 6-week follow-up period, from 14 June 2017 to 20 January 2019.

The change of pain intensity at week 4 measured using a 100-mm visual analogue scale was the primary outcome, while secondary ones included the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey.

The mean changes in the visual analogue scale at week 4 were −30.8 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], −38.2 to −23.0; p<0.001) in the acupuncture group and −26.7 (95 percent CI, −34.4 to −18.8; p<0.001) in the sham group (mean difference, –4.1, 95 percent CI, –14.4 to 6.2; p=0.431). At week 10, the between-group difference was –2.2 (95 percent CI, –13.1 to 8.8; p=0.699).

No statistically significant difference was noted in Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index subscores (pain, stiffness, and physical function) and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey-related outcomes across groups from weeks 2 to 10.

The incidence of treatment-related adverse events was 4.4 percent in the acupuncture group and 0.8 percent in the sham acupuncture group, all of which were classified as mild.

“The current study cannot confirm that superficial acupuncture has efficacy for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis,” the authors said.

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