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Oct 01, 2014 07:38 AM EDT

Acupuncture Ineffective in Older People, Study

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Acupuncture does not benefit patients older than 50 years with moderate or severe chronic knee pain, according to a University of Melbourne study.

Chronic knee pain generally affects people aged 50 or above. Physical activity and exercise are usually recommended to manage chronic knee pain. However, patients also use complementary and alternative medicines besides the drug-free approaches.

Acupuncture is the most popular alternative medicine. Although traditionally administered with needles, laser acupuncture (low-intensity laser therapy to acupuncture points) is a non-invasive alternative that has been found to benefit some pain conditions.

For the study, researcher's subjected 282 patients with chronic knee pain to either needle acupuncture, laser acupuncture, no acupuncture or sham (inactive) laser treatment. Participants undertook the therapies for up to 12 weeks.

Researchers found no significant differences between active and sham acupuncture at 12 weeks or at one year with respect to the knee pain and its physical function. No improvements were also seen with respect to quality of life.

Needle acupuncture improved pain on walking at 12 weeks but this improvement did not last one year.

"Both needle and laser acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in pain compared with the control group who had no treatment at 12 weeks. However, these results were not maintained at one year," said Researcher Professor Kim Bennell from the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine (CHESM).

"Needle acupuncture improved physical function at 12 weeks compared with the control but was not different from sham acupuncture and was not maintained at one year."

The finding is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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