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September 2014

Acupuncture Might Not Improve Chronic Knee Pain

Contrary to previous findings, acupuncture might not benefit people with chronic knee pain.

The practice of acupuncture originated in China 5,000 years ago. Today it is widely used throughout the world and is one of the main pillars of Chinese medicine. Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture has special challenges. These include the diversity of approaches, the practice of individualizing treatment for each patient, differing skill levels between practitioners, and difficulty separating out the effects of acupuncture from placebo effects (i.e., how the patient's beliefs and expectations affect his/her perception of symptoms).

In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 282 people at least 50 years-old with chronic knee pain to receive needle acupuncture, laser acupuncture, sham laser acupuncture, or no acupuncture at all. Various outcome measures, including knee pain and physical function were evaluated.

The researchers found that after 12 weeks of treatment, neither needle nor laser acupuncture improved pain or physical function when compared to people receiving the sham acupuncture treatments. When compared to the people who received no acupuncture at all, needle acupuncture provided small improvements in pain and functioning. However, these improvements did not last throughout the 1 year follow-up period.

The authors concluded that people over the age of 50 who have chronic knee pain might not benefit from needle or laser acupuncture.

For information about acupuncture, please visit Natural Standard’s Health & Wellness Database.


  1. Hinman RS, McCrory P, Pirotta M, et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Knee Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2014 Oct 1;312(13):1313-1322.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

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