Acupuncture with Ibuprofen Relieves Osteoarthritis Pain

May 7, 2019

Adding acupuncture to topical ibuprofen can provide greater pain relief for patients with osteoarthritis who have chronic knee pain than treating them with only topical ibuprofen, according to recent research.

Adding acupuncture to topical ibuprofen can provide greater pain relief for patients with osteoarthritis who have chronic knee pain than treating them with only topical ibuprofen, according to recent research.

Traditional treatment options are less than optimal, investigators said. Oral ibuprofen is frequently the recommended pain relief therapy for this patient group, but long-term use can cause serious adverse events. And, topical ibuprofen has demonstrated limited efficacy in some individuals.

The problems reveal the need for an add-on therapy, researchers said. They hypothesized acupuncture could be a beneficial addition.

“As chronic knee pain is the most prevalent symptom in patients with osteoarthritis, and also the leading cause of disability,” said study author Jian-Min Qiao, MB, an orthopedist affiliated with Jiamusi University, “the identification of adjunctive acupuncture therapy showed effectiveness in decreasing pain intensity of chronic knee pain, and also improving the function, and reducing stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis.”

Published in recent Medicine issue, this is the first study to assess both the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture plus topical ibuprofen in this patient population.

To test acupuncture’s effectiveness is as an additional therapy, investigators analyzed the medical records of 84 patients - 42 who received acupuncture plus topical ibuprofen and 42 who received topical ibuprofen monotherapy. Only patients, ages 55 to 80, with a clinical diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis were included in the study. Anyone who received acupuncture, topical ibuprofen, or medication injection for knee pain within a month prior to the study was excluded.

All patients received a once daily dose of topical ibuprofen for eight weeks. The acupuncture treatment group also received treatment for eight weeks, three times weekly. Each session lasted 30 minutes and included three manipulations of five acupoints, including the fibula, tibia, below the knee cap on the shin bone, next to the patellar ligament, and at the lateral humerus and patellar tendon.

According to results, patients in the acupuncture group experienced more improvement in pain, stiffness, and function than the topical ibuprofen monotherapy group, researchers said. No severe adverse events occurred in either group.

Ultimately, investigators said, these findings could be helpful in determining both clinical practice and further studies.

REFERENCE

Liu SC, Qiao XF, Tang QX, Li XG, Yang JH, Wang TQ, Xiao YJ, Qiao JM, A retrospective study of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy to topical ibuprofen for chronic knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Medicine (2019), doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000015308