We report a prospective randomised trial of acupuncture given to 44 patients with advanced osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee awaiting total knee joint replacement. Patients were randomly allocated into two groups, group A receiving acupuncture to the most affected knee only and group B receiving acupuncture to both knees. Acupuncture was given to four local points around the knee and one distal point. The local points were Spleen 9 (Yinlinquan, SP9), Spleen 10 (Xuehai, SP10), Stomach 34 (Liangqui, ST34), and Stomach 36 (Zusanli, ST36). The distal point was Large Intestine 4 (Hegu, LI4) on the first web space of the ipsilateral hand. A blinded observer assessed knee function before starting treatment, and at the end of two and six months. Analysis of the results showed a significant reduction in symptoms in both groups, and this improvement was sustained for six months. There was no statistically significant difference between the groups.
In conclusion, unilateral acupuncture is as effective as bilateral acupuncture in increasing function and reducing the pain associated with OA of the knee. This trial is not able to distinguish the specific from the non-specific effects of the treatment.
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