By Jo Finzi
Acupuncture is able to ease the pain of arthritis, according to a study conducted in Germany.
In the past it’s been shown that acupuncture gave pain relief, but studies have been small and it was always difficult to conclude whether or not the results were simply the result of the placebo effect.
Now results published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, detail findings on 357 patients who were given acupuncture, compared with a further 355 who were waiting for treatment scheduled for three months later.
Patients’ symptoms were measured on the WOMAC scale - used to assess pain, stiffness and joint movement. At the start of treatment the patients’ scores averaged 50.
After 15 sessions in the first three months, the patients treated with acupuncture had new WOMAC scores of around 30, while people in the control group waiting for treatment remained the same at around 50.
After adjusting for other factors, the improvement in the first group was finally assessed at 36 per cent. When the second “control” group, started treatment three months later, their improvement levels were the same.
The results showed that when added to conventional treatment such as use of anti-inflammatories, acupuncture gives “a clinically relevant and persistent benefit” according to project’s chief researcher Claudia Witte, of the Charité University-Medicine in Berlin. However, sceptics may still point out that this was not a double-blind study.
Interestingly, the amount of experience the acupuncturists had did not seem to have any influence on the outcome. In this trial inexperienced acupuncturists proved just as effective as experienced ones.
Many scientists now see the study as further proof of the effectiveness of acupuncture, particularly for pain relief - even though no-one has yet been able to explain exactly how it works.
If you’re an arthritis sufferer, and want to try acupuncture, click here to go our list of practitioners in your area.