Knee pain has many causes, ranging from acute injuries to long-lasting conditions such as osteoarthritis. Depending on the cause, acupuncture can be an effective way to relieve knee pain.
Acupuncture is a practice derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It consists of inserting fine metal needles into specific points on the skin. According to several studies, there is evidence that acupuncture can help relieve knee pain due to osteoarthritis as well as pain that occurs after surgery. However, scientists do not fully understand how it works.
Read on to learn more about acupuncture for knee pain, including what the research says about its effectiveness for different knee conditions, acupuncture points for knee pain, results, and costs.
Is acupuncture good for knee pain?
Acupuncture can help relieve knee pain, but it depends on the cause. The technique cannot replace first aid for acute injuries or surgical procedures to repair knee structures. However, doctors may recommend using it as a complementary therapy, in addition to medical treatment, for certain conditions.
Ligament and tendon injuries
Ligaments and tendons are different types of connective tissues that connect muscles and bones. Ligament and tendon injuries are among the most common knee injuries. A 2020 review of the use of acupuncture for sports injuries found that many previous case studies reported positive effects, such as decreased pain and faster recovery, following of the treatment. However, this study included many case studies involving different types of injuries and using different forms of acupuncture. More research on knee injuries is needed to determine the effectiveness of this treatment.
The use of acupuncture for post-surgical pain has become more common in recent years. A 2021 study looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture in reducing postoperative pain in people who had total knee replacement surgery. She showed that using the method with other treatments reduced postoperative pain and the need for painkillers.
In 2019, a review of 26 previous studies showed that auricular acupuncture, which is performed in the ear, may also help reduce post-surgical pain. However, the researchers say larger, higher-quality trials are needed.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint wears away, allowing the bones to rub against each other. This causes swelling, pain, and difficulty moving the affected joint.
Acupuncture can be effective in reducing pain related to osteoarthritis. Previous research suggests that acupuncture is comparable to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in pain management.
How does acupuncture work on knee pain?
Scientists don’t fully understand how acupuncture works to reduce pain. Some evidence suggests that inserting needles may affect hormone levels, which could affect how the brain perceives pain.
Acupuncture points for knee pain
According to TCM practitioners, there are approximately 361 acupuncture points in the human body. These points are located along the meridians, which practitioners describe as pathways for vital energy to flow through the body. These meridians may correspond to peripheral nerves.
The acupuncture points that a practitioner can use to treat knee pain are:
Yin Ling Quan or spleen 9, which is located in the crook of the inner leg, below the kneecap.
Yang Ling Quan or Gall Bladder 34, which is located just below the outside of the knee, above the shin.
Dubi or stomach 35, which is below the kneecap, towards the outside of the leg
Zusanli or stomach 36, which is on the outer part of the leg, below the patella
Weiyang or bladder 39, which is on the outer edge of the middle of the back of the knee
Weizhong or urinary bladder 40, which is located in the middle of the back of the knee.
How long do the results last?
Depending on the type and cause of the pain, the results of acupuncture can last months or a year. In general, the technique involves several sessions. More sessions may be needed for chronic pain, while acute pain may require fewer sessions. However, some people may not experience any benefit after receiving acupuncture. They may also feel only short-term effects. Anyone wishing to try acupuncture should discuss developing a treatment plan with their doctor and acupuncturist.
Find an acupuncturist
Acupuncture should only be performed by a trained professional. Improper administration of the technique can lead to risks. When looking for an acupuncturist, check their references and consider talking to them before booking a session. This helps ensure that people feel safe and comfortable with him. The best way to find one is usually word of mouth.
Although scientists don’t quite understand acupuncture yet, evidence suggests that it may be helpful in treating certain types of knee pain. It can help treat osteoarthritis pain, postoperative pain, and possibly acute knee injuries. The benefits of acupuncture can last longer or shorter, so a person may need repeat sessions. However, acupuncture should not replace professional health care and it is advisable to consult a doctor before trying it.