Knee Pain and Acupuncture

Are you among the over 11 million people who visited a doctor in the last year because of knee pain. Are you an athlete who experienced a knee injury or are you relishing retirement…without knee pain? Knee pain is very common among both children and adults, is the most treated anatomical site by orthopedists and is one of the most often examined sites among general practitioners. Some people are more likely to develop knee problems than others. Many jobs, sports and recreation activities, getting older, or having a disease such as osteoporosis or arthritis increase your chances of having problems with your knees. Injuries are the most common cause of knee problems and because sports are the number one cause of knee injuries, I'm going to focus a little more on sports injuries and how acupuncture may help. Let us first look at the mechanism of injury and the anatomy of the knee.

Sports that involve changes of speed and changes of direction, twisting, jumping and of course contact have the highest incidence of knee injuries. Sports such as football, skiing, basketball, wrestling, soccer, rugby and gymnatics. Girls have significantly higher knee injury rates than boys in sex-comparable sports and their injuries tend to be more severe. Knee injuries have also been found to be more common in competition than in practice.

The knee joint is the largest and one of the strongest, most complex and important joints in the human body. The knee, is a synovial (filled with synovial fluid -think lubricant) hinge joint formed between three bones: the femur, tibia, and patella. It also contains several muscles which bend the leg and play a crucial role in stability, tendons which attach the muscles to the bones, ligaments which reinforce its structure and hold its bones in the proper alignment and cartilage which serves to cushion the knee or help it absorb shock during motion. All these structures can be the cause or the source of knee pain.

Most complaints of knee pain result from some form of trauma, such as a torn or ruptured ligament; a broken or fractured kneecap; torn cartilage; or an accident that causes damage to the area or strains the knee beyond its normal range of motion. The most common knee injuries are incomplete ligament tears to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or the MCL (medial collateral ligament), contusions, complete ligament tears, torn cartilage, fractures/dislocations and muscle tears.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used systems of healing in the world. Originating in China some 3,500 years ago, only in the last three decades has it become popular in the United States. In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration estimated that Americans made up to 12 million visits per year to acupuncture practitioners and spent upwards of half a billion dollars on acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture is about the flow of energy (qi) through different pathways in your body. It involves the insertion of very thin needles just below the surface of the skin to help restore the normal flow of qi throughout the body and thus restoring health to the mind and body. It is not painful and has been shown to help with numerous different conditions. Typically a series of treatments are prescribed over the coarse of a few months.

Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in relieving knee pain. A 1999 study comparing acupuncture to ice massage and transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) for subjects with knee pain found that acupuncture decreased pain and stiffness levels and increased muscle strength and flexion in the knee. Another study published that same year suggested that patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome might benefit from weekly acupuncture treatments. Smaller studies have confirmed that acupuncture is beneficial in reducing knee pain, stiffness and physical disability in patients with knee and knee-related problems. It can ease the discomfort some subjects feel while waiting for knee surgery, and in some cases, it may even be considered an alternative to surgery.

As with any other form of care, however, remember that not all patients will respond to acupuncture. Make sure to discuss the situation thoroughly with your acupuncturist before undergoing treatment for knee pain.

I use acupuncture for a number of different musculo-skeletal conditions but I have to say out of all the joints in the body, knees tend to respond exceptionally well to acupuncture. Not only am I seeing great results, I’m seeing these favorable results after only 1-3 treatments. So, if you are suffering from knee pain or know a family member or friend who is, you may want to give acupuncture a try. It’s not expensive ($65 at my clinic) doesn’t take up a lot of your time (20 minutes), is non-invasive, comfortable and has been very successful for my patients. To see if acupuncture may help with your knee pain or other joint pain call 630.561.7025.

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