Sham Acupuncture for Knee Arthritis as Effective as the Real Therapy

FRIDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) — Sham acupuncture is as effective as traditional Chinese acupuncture in the treatment of patients with knee osteoarthritis, a new study states.

It also found that the communication style of the acupuncturist could have a significant impact on pain reduction and patient satisfaction, said the researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The study included 455 patients with knee osteoarthritis who received either traditional Chinese acupuncture(TCA) or sham acupuncture treatments; 72 healthy controls also participated in the research. The acupuncturists were trained to interact with patients in one of two communication styles — high expectations (“I’ve had a lot of success with treating knee pain”) or neutral expectations (“It may or may not work for you”).

The patients in the TCA and sham acupuncture groups experienced similar substantial reductions in reported levels of knee pain, compared to the control group that received no treatment. The researchers also found that pain reduction was significantly higher for patients in the “high expectations” group than those in the “neutral” group.

“We saw a small but significant effect on pain and satisfaction with treatment, demonstrating a placebo effect related to the clinicians’ communications style,” said Dr. Maria Suarez-Almazor in a press release.

“The improvement in pain and satisfaction suggests that the benefits of acupuncture may be partially mediated through placebo effects related to the behavior of the acupuncturist,” she concluded.

The study appears online and in the September print issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more about acupuncture.