Conditions & Treatment

Is Acupuncture Effective for Knee Pain or Knee Arthritis?

Kristen Sparrow • September 09, 2020

Is Acupuncture effective for knee pain or knee arthritis?

Knee pain is one of the most common ailments I treat in my clinic. Acupuncture can be incredibly helpful for knee pain, sometimes curing it all together even if the pain is from a sprain or ligament problem.

What is the theory behind Acupuncture & Knee Pain?

In Chinese Medicine, Knee Pain is caused by a stagnation of energy and blood in the meridians of the leg and knee. Often, according to Chinese Medicine, other organ systems can be involved also, and those will be addressed.

How does acupuncture work for Knee Pain?

Acupuncture can improve circulation to the knee, release pinched nerves, decrease inflammation and improve the body’s own healing mechanisms. In western medicine, these needles cause feedback to the central nervous system to relax the patient and increase pain thresholds and mood.

How many treatments will it take?

I ask patients to commit to 6 treatments within a month. Then usually there will be two more weekly treatments and then the treatments are spaced out to once a month. Sometimes one can see improvement immediately after treatment, but sometimes it can take a few treatments to improve. It’s important to complete the series; otherwise, the patient has wasted their time and money.

The most common negative side effect after knee treatment is tiredness after the first and maybe second treatment. It is possible, also, that the pain will be aggravated, for 24-36 hours after the first or second treatments. Fortunately, there are often positive side effects of acupuncture.

  • Often one feels calmer
  • can sleep better resist illness more easily
  • resist illness more easily

These positive effects might be due to the decrease in stress that is part of how acupuncture works.

The ancient Chinese thought that acupuncture could improve longevity, also. We now know that stress increases cell ageing, so it is possible that acupuncture does improve longevity, and fight ageing.

Are there any other alternative therapies that can help?

For pain conditions, Vitamin D, Calcium and Magnesium can be helpful. Best to take these before bedtime to allow for peaceful sleep. An anti-inflammatory diet (low in processed food, sugars, high in vegetables) is a good plan for life. Stress has been shown to increase many types of pain, including migraines. So any therapies to reduce stress (yoga, meditation, biofeedback, exercise, journaling) can help with most any pain condition.

Do you have to keep having treatment for the rest of your life?

It depends. Sometimes people are fine after a treatment series and I never see them again. Most patients continue treatment at some sort of interval to avoid the pain returning.

Isn’t Acupuncture just a placebo?

Acupuncture can work on babies and animals. In fact, many of the studies on the scientific mechanisms of acupuncture are performed on laboratory animals and we are learning quite a bit from those studies. “Belief” in acupuncture is NOT necessary for it to work. I have had hundreds of skeptics come to my office and have great results. It’s fine to skeptical, but you have to keep your appointments!

Have there been any medical studies on acupuncture & knee pain?

The largest controlled acupuncture study ever undertaken was completed in 2004 looking at the effects of acupuncture on osteoarthritis of the knee. It showed that acupuncture is more effective than placebo acupuncture (sham acupuncture) or conventional conservative management. At 26 weeks the acupuncture patients had much improved pain scores and quality of life scores (1).

In another study from Germany, they found that acupuncture helped not only pain and function scores, but also the quality of life scores in patients who received acupuncture for chronic osteoarthritis of the hip and knee over a 12 week period. The results were sustained for 6 months (2).

1. Ann Intern Med. 2004 Dec 21;141(12):901-10.2. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;

2. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;

Call me  415-775-0117 or email me at and we can discuss how and if I can help you.  I will do my best to fit you in for an appointment.  I know you have better things to do with your time than spend it in a doctor’s office, so I promise you to be punctual, efficient and attentive. How great is that!