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Can acupuncture help with osteoarthritis of the knee?

Q) Both my knees are severely swollen as a result of osteoarthritis, but I am nowhere near ready to have a knee replacement as I can still walk distances and the pain is controllable.

My doctor says that there is nothing that can be done about it, even though I am too embarrassed to swim any longer or to wear a knee length skirt. I understand that acupuncture helps osteoarthritis. Will it get rid of the swelling? Is there any other way of getting rid of it, with or without surgery?
Diana, via email
(Winter 2015)

A) Osteoarthritis can cause both bony growths, which can distort the knees, and fluid accumulation which can make the knees look and feel swollen. Some people have the bony distortion more than fluid, other people less so.

Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, when they start, are more likely to cause extra fluid in the knees, rather than the extra bone. The fluid comes from the lining of the knee, which is inflamed.

In diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis we often take the fluid off the knee with a needle and inject cortisone to keep the fluid at bay. This can also be done in osteoarthritis if extra fluid is present, but not all cases of osteoarthritis have this extra fluid. In your case, it might be worth having the fluid removed, and the knee injected. Acupuncture can help with pain relief but it is unlikely to help with the swelling.

This answer was provided by Dr Tom Margham for the Winter 2015 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to enquiries@arthritisresearchuk.org


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