Case Study 3



Acupuncture for Osteo-Arthritis of the Knees

J presented to the clinic 2 years ago with worsening pain in both knees. She is 83 years old, in good health and was previously very active. Her particular concern was that she was losing confidence in her legs and was fearful of falling particularly when venturing outside the house.

J lives with her husband who is in his 90’s and had noticed a decline in his health in recent years.

X-rays of both knee joints had shown moderately severe osteo-arthritis.

At the initial assessment we noted that she was unable to fully bend or straighten either knee.  The supporting muscles surrounding the joint were weak. Pain was increased with walking and particularly going up and down stairs.  J’s GP had suggested that maybe it was time to get a stair lift.

After the examination we discussed treatment options and decided to send her to see an Orthopaedic Specialist to see if knee joint surgery was an option. In the meantime we decided to manage the problem with 1) acupuncture for pain relief and 2) exercises to improve the strength of the muscles surrounding the joint and her ability to straighten the knees fully.  This is essential to improve the function of the joints and reduce the ‘giving way’ sensation.
J was also encouraged to use a walking stick to reduce the load through the joints when walking.

(the patient) generally felt “better in herself” with more “get up and go”

Acupuncture was introduced at the next treatment and involved the insertion of fine needles at specific points close to the knee joints (local points) and a few points in the feet (distal points).

By the second treatment pain had reduced a little and besides feeling a little tired after the session everything was fine.

I decided that she needed a more intense treatment and added some electro-acupuncture to the local needles. Electro-acupuncture is not painful but feels like a tapping or tingling sensation depending on the frequency chosen.

J continued with her exercises and pain gradually reduced, we also noted improving strength in the muscles and better range of movement in the joints.

Treatments were initially done close together, three in the first two weeks then gradually spaced out further and further until we reached a maintenance level when J could mostly manage the problem herself with exercises.

J commented that in addition to reduced pain, increased movement and improved muscle strength she generally felt “better in herself” with more “get up and go”. Patients receiving acupuncture for musculo-skeletal conditions will often describe other effects such as “feeling relaxed”, better sleep and improved wellbeing.

At the initial appointment with the Orthopaedic Surgeon they decided that as she was responding well to the Physiotherapy treatment they would monitor her and only consider surgery if her condition deteriorated.

J continues to use her stick for walking distances and up stairs. She did have a stair lift installed which her husband finds useful and she uses it to transport the washing up and down stairs.


Whilst acupuncture does not ‘cure’ osteo-arthritis it has helped to control pain in the knee joints which allows the patient to do strengthening and mobility exercises which improves the function of the knee joints and quality of life.

Val Edmondson MCSP

Patient's Comments

Acupuncture has considerably reduced arthritic pan in both of my knees. This treatment combined with exercises and having been shown how to negotiate stairs, with the aid of a walking stick, has greatly improved the quality of my life. I now have much more confidence in going about.   J

Treatments Used


Used as part of physiotherapy treatment to relieve pain in conditions such as low back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee joints. It may also be effective at releasing myofascial trigger points making follow up and stretching more effective.

See the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP)’s website for more information:

Conditions Treated

Upper Limb

Lower Limb


Sports Injuries


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