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Acupuncture for Knee Pain

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Acupuncture for Knee Pain
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According to the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture provides pain relief and improves function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee and serves as an effective complement to standard care. In recent years, scientific inquiry has begun to shed more light on acupuncture's possible mechanisms and potential benefits, especially in treating painful conditions such as arthritis.


Acupuncture is recognized as one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world. In 1997, the U.S. National Institutes of Health formally recognized acupuncture as a mainstream medicine healing option with a statement documenting the procedure's safety and efficacy for treating a range of health conditions. While acupuncture remains a difficult treatment to study scientifically, its popularity has continued to grow as an alternative method of health care and pain management.

Typical Treatment

Most acupuncture appointments last about one hour. The acupuncturist will reevaluate the patient's knee at each visit prior to treatment to determine if it shows improvement. The practitioner will insert perhaps 10 needles into various locations on the body, including into the knee itself, and will leave them in place for about 30 minutes. After the needles are removed, the acupuncturist may provide some soft tissue massage or stretching to the knee.

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Frequency and Duration

The schedule of treatments is determined on a case-by-case basis, by the acupuncturist and the patient. Some cases of knee pain will respond more favorably to treatment three times per week, while others may need only one treatment per week. A standard course of acupuncture treatment for knee pain is two times per week for three to six weeks. This course of treatment may be repeated if indicated.

Who May Benefit

Acupuncture appears to decrease knee pain that is caused by osteoarthritis. As reported by the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture reduces the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee and can serve as an effective addition to a standard regimen of care. Acupuncture Today explains that while no definitive studies have suggested a specific treatment for patellofemoral pain, acupuncture appears to have a clear, durable effect in reducing pain and improving function for the patient.


Acupuncture, when provided by a qualified practitioner, has a high level of safety and side effects are rare. Occasionally the patient may develop a small bruise or local swelling at the needle site. Pre-sterilized, disposable needles and clean needle technique decrease the likelihood of any infection. Acupuncture can be given in conjunction with other therapies, such as physical therapy, massage and chiropractic. Check to see what your local licensing regulations are and seek a qualified practitioner.

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author image Jody Murray
Based in Connecticut, Jody Murray, has been writing and teaching in the field of sports medicine since 1997. Murray has an M.A. in exercise physiology from UNC-Chapel Hill and a B.S. in athletic training from Springfield College. Murray is also a licensed acupuncturist.
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