Background In 1997, the first Pain Management Unit, which was set up as part of primary health care within the Andalusian Public Health System, offered acupuncture among other therapies. This observational study was conducted in preparation for a randomised controlled trial.
Methods We conducted a descriptive study of patients who had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee. The patients received weekly acupuncture treatment, and related techniques, from November 1997 to November 2000. We recorded: socio-demographic data; measures of effectiveness, including intensity and frequency of pain; the daily dose of analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication; the degree of incapacity; and sleep disorders caused by pain in the knee.
Results The 563 patients who presented were mainly female (88%) with an average age of 65 years (±10.7); the average age of the male patients was 67 years (±11.8). The condition in most patients (95%) was chronic: 54% had the condition for 5-10 years and a further 23% for more than 10 years. Of the total, 85 (15%) abandoned treatment and were excluded from the evaluation, while 75% of the remainder achieved a reduction in pain of 45% or more. This study is intended to form the basis for a subsequent controlled clinical trial of the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee.
Conclusion The degree of pain relief experienced by patients from acupuncture justifies a more rigorous study.
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