May 01, 2017
1 min read

Acupressure no different than sham counterpart, but still led to improvements for knee OA

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According to results of a randomized controlled study, treatment with self-administered acupressure — termed Verum acupressure by study authors — was no different than sham acupressure with arbitrary meridian points, yet both interventions led to greater improvements for pain and function among patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis compared with those who received usual care and had no intervention.

“One explanation for our findings is the placebo effect, that is the Verum intervention may not have a specific therapeutic effect, and a strong placebo effect may have contributed to better outcomes for Verum than [usual care] UC,” Lydia W. Li, PhD, at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and colleagues wrote.

Lydia Li
Lydia W. Li

Investigators assessed 150 adults with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (KOA) who were aged 65 years or older and categorized them into three groups. Patients were excluded if — in the 2 months prior to study initiation —they received narcotics, opioids, acupuncture, acupressure, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, centrally acting agents, a knee injection, an arthroscopic procedure or were in an arthritis self-management program.

Two patient groups underwent an intervention for 8 weeks in addition to usual care and the third group received usual care for 8 weeks without intervention. The two acupressure intervention groups received a timer, a DVD, a wooden hand-held device and a diagram of acupoints. The Verum group applied pressure to the nine designated acupuncture meridians for 5 days a week; whereas, the sham group applied pressure to nine arbitrary points. For both groups, participants applied pressure in clockwise or counterclockwise circles to each point.

Researchers found both Verum (–1.27 unit mean difference) and sham (–1.24 unit mean difference) led to greater reduction in WOMAC pain scores compared with usual care. In addition, there was a greater reduction in both Verum (–4.83 unit mean difference) and sham (–4.21 mean difference) for WOMAC function compared with usual care. However, there was no significant difference in either WOMAC score between Verum and sham.

“However, for some older adults with symptomatic KOA, especially those with high pill burden, acupressure may be considered as an adjunct to usual care” the researchers wrote. – by Will A. Offit

Disclosure: The researchers report they received funding by the Arthritis Foundation.