Remember the good ol’ days when you could spring up those stairs two at a time? Now you’re holding onto the bannister so tightly, you’re practically leaving fingernail marks in the wood.
Let’s face it: Your knees just aren’t what they used to be. The moment you get out of bed in the morning, your knees start aching. Getting in and out of the car is like an exercise in torture.
And if you complain to your doctor, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up with a prescription for an addictive pain reliever that could damage everything from your liver to your gut.
Worse yet, you could end up trading in your old knees for some new ones – and, with surgery, you’ll face scary health risks while you’re laid up for months, going through painful physical therapy.
All that, for just a 50-50 chance of any meaningful improvement! Well, there’s another, different kind of treatment for your knee pain… something that doesn’t require you to swallow a single pill… or get any replacement parts.
All you have to do is close your eyes and let a few tiny needles work their magic in the ancient healing practice known as acupuncture.
After thousands of treatments performed on hundreds of patients in my practice over the course of 30 years, I can promise you won’t feel anything but better.
A simple, proven way to relieve twice as much knee pain
I have written, taught, and practiced acupuncture since I was first trained in the early 1980s. But I used to keep my status as a medical acupuncturist secret from my colleagues in conventional medicine, who’d give funny looks any time you mentioned something that didn’t involve drugs and surgery.
“It’s unproven,” they’d say. Aside from the fact that it’s been used with great success for centuries, there is now plenty of scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture – especially where osteoarthritis of the knee is concerned.
Some of the most extensive studies on acupuncture have been conducted by the German government and their public health service. They involved training hundreds of family physicians in acupuncture and treating large numbers of patients with knee osteoarthritis, as well as a variety of other conditions.
One of the first such studies of acupuncture for knee pain was published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2005 and involved 296 patients with knee pain from arthritis, with a control group of patients who were on a waiting list without treatment. After eight weeks, the treated group’s knee pain significantly improved over the waiting list group.
For those of you who follow statistics, the P value was <0.0001 which means this study’s findings are highly reliable.1
In a subsequent study, 498 patients with osteoarthritic pain of the knee and hip were treated by over 200 acupuncture physicians in Germany. Again, the treated group improved over the group that received no treatment, but not just in pain management.
The group treated with acupuncture showed improvements in their quality of life (as determined by their answers to a standardized questionnaire both before and after treatment)… and actually experienced greater benefits with acupuncture versus other treatment options.2
In addition, a larger trial was also performed, as part of a huge trial called German Acupuncture Trials or GERAC that were started in 2001 and published in 2006. In this trial, 1,007 patients were randomly assigned to acupuncture treatment or ‘usual care’ (physical therapy, medication). After 26 weeks, the acupuncture group improved twice as much as the usual care group!
The key fact is this: Being treated with acupuncture needles improved the symptom of pain in patients with knee arthritis, measured over literally thousands of acupuncture treatments, in hundreds of medical offices.
Imagine if a prescription drug was found to be twice as effective as taking no medication! The medical authorities would immediately green-light it, and it would soon become ‘all the rage’ among doctors.
So, the next time one of my patients asks me, “Does it work?” I can tell them about the number of studies that show that the answer is a resounding “YES!”
From ancient Chinese medicine to mainstream medical miracle
Fortunately, there has been a slow shift over the last decade: Mainstream doctors have started asking questions about acupuncture out of curiosity, and some of them even refer patients to me for the treatment!
One nice thing about osteoarthritis pain of the knee is how easily it can be treated. The treatment of knee pain is usually done with needling around the knee… and some points on the forearms, hands, and feet… so there’s no need to disrobe.
In fact, in sessions sometimes called ‘community acupuncture,’ several patients can sit in comfortable chairs together in a large room, while the clinician treats them all simultaneously. This helps bring the cost down over the one-on-one sessions.
However, if the acupuncturist needs to target points on your torso as well – usually if you’ve been experiencing long term arthritic pain – you’d be better off getting treatment in a separate room with some privacy.
As far as safety goes, there’s no evidence that acupuncture causes side effects beyond the sensation of the needle itself – which is a vast improvement over the cardiovascular risks, serious skin reactions, stomach bleeding, and ulcers that come with over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers.
Acupuncture, in fact, is remarkably safe, so if you’ve had chronic knee pains – particularly those caused by knee arthritis – it’s definitely worth a try.
I recommend seeing a certified medical acupuncturist like myself if you’re treating any kind of specific pain or condition. In fact acupuncture is used in some NHS general practices, as well as the majority of pain clinics and hospices in the UK.
Alternatively, you can find a well-qualified acupuncturist in your local area through the
Institute for Complementary Medicine (ICNM), visit: www. icnm.org.uk
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 10, Issue 5 • May 2016
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.