Knee arthritis is a painful condition in which the joints in the knee become inflamed. Depending on the severity of the condition, it may limit an individual’s normal range of motion, forcing him or her to keep body weight off the affected knee. While there’s no known cure for arthritis of the knee, a recent study found herbal acupuncture to effectively treat the symptoms associated with this condition.
So, just how common is arthritis of the knee? According to a 2008 study published in Arthritis Rheum, nearly 1 in 2 people will develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) by the age of 85 (source). People who are obese are placed at even higher risk of developing knee OA, with a prevalence rate of 2 in 3.
Doctors are still trying to determine exactly what causes knee arthritis, but several known risk factors include the following:
- Muscle weakness/atrophy
- Joint injury
- Joint stress
- Exposure to severe cold temperatures
- Autoimmune disorder
For the study, researchers at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine treated patients who were suffering from knee arthritis using moxibustion – a traditional Chinese medicine practice in which heated Artemisia vulgaris herbs are placed near acupuncture sites. Researchers found that patients treated with moxibustion experienced a decrease in pain levels from 6.69 to 3.03 (1 to 10 scale). Patients who were given a sham treatment, on the other hand, experienced a decrease in pain levels from 6.27 to 4.56.
But the benefits of moxibustion for knee arthritis patients doesn’t end there. Researchers also found it to improve patients’ mobility. Patients who were treated with moxibustion experienced an increase in mobility score from 33.4 to 16.43, whereas patients who were given a sham treatment experienced an increase in mobility score from 30.99 to 21.70.
“The use of moxa is very common in Chinese medicine and is considered as another kind of ‘needle.’ Based on my professional experience, I would think the mechanisms of moxa stimulation would be similar to an actual acupuncture needle, although the area of stimulation is larger but shallower,” said licensed acupuncturist Marcus Hsu.
Moxibustion differs from acupuncture in the sense that special herbs are used in conjunction with the needles. Acupuncturists and healers throughout the world have practiced moxibustion for thousands of years, using it to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis, pain, limited mobility, infection, and more. This study reaffirms the importance of embracing traditional medicine practices.
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