We're using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you're agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more

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

Keep up to date with the latest from Arthritis TodaySign up today.


0800 5200 520

Our new helpline: Call us for free information, help and advice on your type of arthritis. Open Mon–Fri 9am–8pm.

All calls are recorded for training and quality purposes

Virtual Assistant

Our new Arthritis Virtual Assistant uses artificial intelligence to answer your arthritis related questions 24/7.

Ask a question

We're now

Versus Arthritis.

You're being taken through to our new website in order to finish your donation.

Thank you for your generosity.

For more information, go to
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.