Have you been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis? Are you considering surgery?
Did you know that specialists recommend acupuncture before resorting to knee replacement?
In this article, you will learn about acupuncture as a safe and effective alternative to knee surgery. When done correctly, it may also slow down the osteoarthritis.
And if you had the surgery already, acupuncture can help speed up your recovery. Especially reduce the post-surgery pain that may last longer than you expect – for up to 6 months!
Of course, we will back this up with studies.
Why there is a need for a safer alternative to knee replacement surgery
Poor outcomes after knee replacement surgery
Research suggests that up to a third of those who have their knee replaced, continue to experience chronic pain in the knee and/or other joints. 1 in 5 is dissatisfied with the results of the surgery. A number of patients are not able to kneel even a year after surgery because of pain or discomfort.
Furthermore, a study published in the BMJ in 2017 found that knee replacement did little to improve how healthy, comfortable participants felt, and how much they were able to participate in or enjoy life. This was especially pronounced for patients with less severe arthritis.
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved with a total knee joint replacement like:
- The legs may not be the same length after the operation
- Nerves may be injured from swelling or pressure resulting in permanent pain, numbness or loss of function
- The knee prosthesis may become loose and require further surgery. Data from New Zealand shows that the knee replacement lasting the patient’s entire life is 90-95% in people over the age of 60, but only 70-80% in people under the age of 50.
If you have been selected as a candidate for knee replacement surgery, there is a chance you may not need it yet. One-third of patients who undergo knee replacement may be inappropriate candidates for the procedure. The main reason is their arthritis symptoms aren’t severe enough, according to a 2014 study in Arthritis & Rheumatology.
Orthodox treatment for osteoarthritis
The current treatment of knee osteoarthritis is aimed at relieving the pain and maintaining the function. Your doctor may have told you to keep moving – aerobic or aquatic exercise, but to avoid overload. If you’re overweight, it is recommended to lose weight to reduce the load on the joints. In case of the severe pain, GP may recommend taking anti-inflammatories.
If the conservative treatment plan does not relieve the arthritis symptoms, your specialist or GP will discuss the possibility of injections with corticosteroids or even knee replacement surgery, to partially or completely replace your knee.
There are several drawbacks to the use of medication, injections with corticosteroids and replacement of the knee joint. Read more to learn what are side effects and how to minimise the risks.
Why consider acupuncture for arthritic knee pain?
Acupuncture instead of surgery or while on the waiting list
Acupuncture may reduce the symptoms and delay the need for surgery. In 2012 researchers from UK investigated how acupuncture can help patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. They recruited 90 patients who were waiting for knee surgery. Following the course of acupuncture, patients reported
- Less pain
- Less stiffness
- Could walk easier, or climb the stairs.
Of these 90 patients, at least 31 improved enough so that they didn’t need the knee replacement for at least two years. Clinically, we would recommend repeating the course of acupuncture at that point, hoping that we can delay the surgery for another couple of years.
After acupuncture, you can resume daily activities right away. No need for lengthy recovery and walking on crutches. Unlike recovery after the surgery, acupuncture is not painful. Even needle phobic patients feel comfortable during treatments at our clinic. Watch what our patients say.
Acupuncture is safe
Acupuncture is safer than drugs
Acupuncture has an advantage over nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other OA medications. It lacks any significant side effects. The adverse side effects of those drugs are way worse. To name a few: stomach pain and heartburn, stomach ulcers, headaches, and dizziness, ringing in the ears, liver or kidney problems, high blood pressure.
Furthermore, acupuncture can be used in conjunction with drugs to improve effectiveness. When compared acupuncture plus topical ibuprofen with ibuprofen alone acupuncture group experienced less pain, had better knee function and less stiffness.
Acupuncture is safer than surgery:
As with any surgery, you may experience serious side effects like infection, swelling, blood clots, pulmonary embolism, nerve or other tissue damage. After the knee replacement, you may be more prone to a bone fracture (even after a light fall) and dislocation of the knee. If one of these happens, you may need another surgery to fix it.
A Cost-Effective Solution for Osteoarthritis
Several studies into the cost-saving effect of acupuncture show that patients experience a long time relief and can postpone the surgery. The initial appointment costs are significantly less expensive than seeing a specialist and patients spend less money on drugs because their pain is reduced significantly.
American College of Rheumatology recommendations for osteoarthritis of the knee includes acupuncture. Did your GP recommend acupuncture?
You now know acupuncture is effective with osteoarthritis symptoms like pain, stiffness, swelling, improved range of motion. How about prevention? There are some experimental studies showing that it may prevent further OA by reducing inflammation and promoting cartilage regeneration.
- Reduces inflammation
- Has been shown to promote cartilage regeneration