Australian-led research has found that genuine methods of acupuncture are no more effective on severe chronic knee pain than laser acupuncture or fake laser acupuncture.
Among patients older than 50 years with moderate to severe chronic knee pain, neither laser nor needle acupuncture provided greater benefit on pain or function compared to sham laser acupuncture, according to a study in the journal JAMA.
Chronic knee pain affects many people older over 50 years and is the most common pain concern among older people consulting family GPs.
Non-pharmacological approaches are central to managing chronic knee pain and patients with joint pain frequently use complementary and alternative medicine.
Acupuncture is the most popular of alternative systems.
Although traditionally administered with needles, laser acupuncture (low-intensity laser therapy to acupuncture points) is a non-invasive alternative with evidence of benefit in some pain conditions.
There is, however, debate about the benefit of acupuncture for knee pain..
Dr Rana S. Hinman of the University of Melbourne colleagues studied 282 patients 50 years or older with chronic knee pain on the benefits or otherwise of acupuncture.
“In our study, benefits of acupuncture were exclusively attributed to incidental effects, given the lack of significant differences between active acupuncture and sham treatment,” the researchers write.
“In patients older than 50 years with moderate or severe chronic knee pain, neither laser nor needle acupuncture conferred benefit over sham for pain or function.
“Our findings do not support acupuncture for these patients.”