How Does Acupuncture For Knee Osteoarthritis Work?


A degenerative disease caused by a loss of cartilage within the joint, knee osteoarthritis can be debilitating, especially if your job requires you to be active. This painful condition can make climbing stairs, standing for long periods, and even just getting up from a chair a real challenge. If you struggle with knee pain due to osteoarthritis and you’re looking for alternative treatments to help you handle your symptoms naturally, you may wonder if acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis works — and, if so, how?

Acupuncture increases blood flow to damaged tissues, removing inflammatory byproducts from the site and giving the cells the building blocks they need to produce new, healthy tissues. Over time, this improves flexibility and strength while also reducing pain. 

How can acupuncture help knee osteoarthritis patients?

Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage, the protective cushioning in the joint, wears down. This condition is associated with overuse, but genetics and aging play a role in the development of knee osteoarthritis as well. Patients with knee osteoarthritis struggle with pain, stiffness, inflammation, and reduced range of motion in the affected knee(s).

Fortunately, acupuncture can help you cope with these debilitating symptoms. Studies have shown that acupuncture enables those with knee osteoarthritis to regain their range of motion. Regular treatments are also highly effective for reducing pain, meaning acupuncture can be used as an alternative to over-the-counter pain medications in managing this condition. 

Acupuncture works by promoting circulation. This increase in blood and oxygen to the damaged joints provides cells with the raw building blocks they need to produce healthy new tissues. It also enables the body to eliminate pro-inflammatory cells like cytokines, keeping inflammation, swelling, and pain to a minimum. 

When should you get acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis?

Acupuncture can be utilized even if you’re completely healthy, with no pain or chronic health conditions. That’s because acupuncture support’s the body’s ability to heal itself. Minimally invasive and with virtually no complications, acupuncture is so gentle that it can even be used to treat patients after surgery

Because the effects of acupuncture are supportive, there is no wrong time to start sessions. And the sooner you start them, the sooner you can enjoy this alternative therapy’s many long-term benefits. Whether you were recently diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, or whether it’s something you’ve struggled with for years, starting acupuncture now can help alleviate your symptoms. 

One of the reasons acupuncture is often used to treat knee osteoarthritis is because it’s believed that acupuncture can stimulate cartilage regeneration. Although more studies are needed to confirm this theory, the fact remains that many knee osteoarthritis patients have witnessed an improvement in their symptoms, and enjoyed a better quality of life, thanks to acupuncture. 

Can acupuncture provide immediate relief for knee osteoarthritis pain?

Acupuncture releases pent-up tension. As needles are inserted, they cause the muscles to twitch, forcing them to relax. Simply letting go of all of the tension reduces pain almost instantaneously — especially if you’re dealing with radiating pain and/or stiffness due to musculoskeletal imbalances caused by your knee inflammation. 

During your acupuncture session, the needles will be inserted into various points across your body. The needles will then be left in place anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes on average. As the needles work their magic, you’ll notice less and less tension, and you’ll feel more and more relaxed. 

Many patients report immediate pain relief from their first acupuncture session. But because the effects of just one or two acupuncture sessions are not long-lasting, repeated sessions may be advised to help you overcome your symptoms. 

In some cases, your acupuncturist may advise you to get a massage to enhance the effects of your session. Soft tissue mobilization techniques may also be utilized to help you loosen up and to break down old scar tissue. 

How often will you need treatment for your symptoms?

In the case of an acute injury, like an ankle sprain, or sudden hip pain caused by a bad mattress, these injuries can be treated until they’re resolved. Acute injuries usually only require short-term acupuncture treatment.

But because knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, ongoing treatments are usually advised. So for this reason, it’s difficult to say offhand just how long you’ll need to attend acupuncture sessions. 

Research shows that acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis is most effective when used for 8 weeks at a time. This allows patients to enjoy improved flexibility and reduced pain and inflammation. Taking a break in between weeks-long sessions is often preferred. That way, the body doesn’t become “desensitized” to the treatment. 

Is acupuncture alone enough to treat knee osteoarthritis?

In some cases, yes. Acupuncture alone can be effective enough to provide you with relief from your knee osteoarthritis symptoms. If the pain and stiffness you’re experiencing are still mild, then you’ll likely experience a significant improvement in your symptoms with acupuncture alone. 

But, in advanced cases, acupuncture may not pack the same punch. Your acupuncturist may recommend additional therapies to help you cope with your condition. Using several alternative therapies at once is a better strategy for dealing with severe pain and loss of flexibility. 

Corrective exercise programming is especially effective for knee osteoarthritis patients. This type of therapy teaches you how to move your muscle groups dynamically, so each supports the other without placing strain on your body. Over time, this can dramatically reduce osteoarthritis pain. Orthopedic acupuncture, electrostimulation, and dry needling can be useful as well.

Booking your first appointment

If you’re ready to find out why so many people rave about acupuncture, contact our office today to learn more. At Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture, our team of caring, dedicated acupuncturists will help you create a treatment plan tailored to your unique health needs. 

During your first session, we will ask you about your health history, listen to your concerns, and help you create realistic, achievable goals for yourself. We are happy to assist you on your wellness journey and will take the time to answer any questions you may have. 

Book an appointment with one of our clinics, and start reaping the benefits of acupuncture today. 

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