Acupuncture for Knee Pain Relief (2022)

Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body. This traditional Chinese medicine practice originated thousands of years ago and is based on the premise that inserting these needles into points on the body restores the flow of qi—the body’s energy—to promote healing, reduce pain, and encourage relaxation.

Acupuncture is thought to be helpful in addressing a variety of health conditions, including knee pain caused by arthritis or injury. Depending on the type and severity of your knee pain, treatments can help reduce the pain for days or weeks.

You can expect to notice an improvement of symptoms shortly after treatment, though some people may require several treatments before noticing an improvement in pain reduction. Acupuncture is often used as a complementary therapy, which is a treatment given in addition to conventional treatments or therapy, such as medication.

Acupuncture for Knee Pain Relief (1)

How Acupuncture Benefits Knee Pain

Knee pain caused by osteoarthritis or injury can have a negative impact on quality of life, reducing mobility and even getting in the way of a good night’s sleep. Acupuncture can help provide much-needed relief for those with knee pain.

When the acupuncture needles are placed on the body, a signal is sent along the spinal cord to the brain which may trigger a release of endorphins—known as “feel good” hormones. Scientists believe this helps reduce pain.

Acupuncture also may decrease the production of cortisol in the body, a hormone that helps control inflammation. With reduced pain sensations and less inflammation after acupuncture treatments, knee function and mobility can be improved on a short-term basis.

Many factors may play a role in the pain-relieving benefits experienced from acupuncture. Some evidence suggests that a person’s expectations and beliefs may have an impact on the results of acupuncture treatment.

Researchers are currently assessing whether a person’s expectation that acupuncture is beneficial contributes to a better outcome after acupuncture treatment.

(Video) Acupuncture for Knee Pain

In 2019, acupuncture was given a conditional recommendation in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee in the American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis Foundation guideline for the management of osteoarthritis of the hand, hip, and knee.

What the Research Shows

Many clinical studies support acupuncture’s ability to relieve knee pain. One study of 18,000 patients found that acupuncture is helpful for managing many conditions that cause chronic pain, including knee pain.

This study found significant differences between true and “fake” acupuncture during the trial, which indicates that acupuncture does effectively reduce pain and inflammation.

A scientific review analyzed previous studies on pain management interventions after knee surgery and found evidence to support that acupuncture delays and reduces the use of opioid medication to relieve pain post-surgery.

Osteoarthritis

A systematic review analyzed 10 randomized control studies to determine whether or not acupuncture reduced pain and improved joint function in people with chronic (3+ months) osteoarthritis-induced knee pain.

People received between six and 23 sessions of acupuncture at least once a week for three to 36 weeks. The analysis determined that acupuncture can improve short- and long-term physical function and mobility, and appears to provide short-term pain relief (up to 13 weeks) in patients with chronic knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that affects joints throughout the body, including the knee joint, causing pain and stiffness. Acupuncture shows promise for being beneficial in treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A review of 43 studies found that acupuncture alone and when combined with other treatment modalities benefits those living with RA.

Acupuncture may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative effects and help regulate immune system function, helping improve the quality of life of those with rheumatoid arthritis. More research is needed to evaluate the effects of acupuncture and how it works to provide relief for RA.

Chronic Knee Pain

A variety of conditions and injuries can cause chronic knee pain, making mobility difficult and affecting a person’s quality of life. People with joint pain often turn to complementary therapies for pain relief, with acupuncture the most popular among the modalities.

One study found that acupuncture is generally effective in the short term but not in the long term. In the study, both needle and laser acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in pain at 12 weeks, but not at one year. Acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in mobility and function at 12 weeks but not significantly at the one-year mark.

(Video) Acupuncture Treatment for Knee Pain

Acupuncture shouldn’t be used as the only therapy, but it may be integrated with other therapies and lifestyle changes.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider Before Treatment

Before you try acupuncture, talk to your healthcare professional for guidance. Acupuncture shouldn’t be used as the only therapy, but it may be integrated with other therapies and lifestyle changes.

Risks and Side Effects

Safety

Acupuncture is considered to be safe when administered by a trained, licensed professional. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, few complications have been reported from the use of acupuncture. It is important to ensure your practitioner uses sterile, one-time-use needles as regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Risks

The risks of acupuncture are low if you are working with a competent, licensed acupuncture practitioner who uses sterile needles. Before your first acupuncture session, talk with your practitioner to share all of your medical conditions and medications you are currently taking.

Contraindications and Precautions

If you have a pacemaker, you should not get electroacupuncture. Tell your acupuncturist if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk with your practitioner ahead of time, as some acupuncture points are thought to stimulate labor.

Side Effects

Side effects of acupuncture include soreness, bruising, or bleeding at the site of needle insertion and dizziness. Less common side effects include fainting, increased pain, and nausea.

Working with a licensed, competent acupuncture practitioner can reduce the risk of unwanted side effects and complications.

Overview of a Typical Acupuncture Session

During your first appointment, your practitioner will ask you questions to learn about your medical history, health, and lifestyle, as well as the condition you are there seeking treatment for.

(Video) Acupuncture for Relief of Knee Pain

Before your acupuncture session begins, you will be asked to lie down or sit in a chair, depending on where the needles will be placed. You may need to roll up your sleeves or pant legs to allow your acupuncturist to access the body parts where needles will be inserted.

The acupuncturist will wipe the areas where the needles will be inserted with disinfectant (e.g., alcohol) before inserting the needles. The practitioner will then insert the needles on various locations on your body, including on or around your knee(s).

You should feel minimal to no discomfort when the needles are inserted. Some people report feeling relaxed or even energized when the needles are inserted. You should not feel any soreness or pain during treatment unless you are moving during treatment or a needle is improperly placed.

The session may last anywhere from a few minutes up to 30 minutes or longer per treatment session.

In addition to traditional acupuncture, there are other acupuncture options you may be offered:

Electroacupuncture is a modified form of acupuncture that uses two needles (standard acupuncture uses one). A mild electrical current passes between the two needles, which provides additional stimulation to the acupoints.

In one research study, individuals with knee osteoarthritis reported significant improvements in their pain, stiffness, and physical function after electroacupuncture treatment.

Auricular (ear) acupuncture works on the theory that there are acupuncture points on the ear that correspond to every part of the body.A research review analyzed 10 studies on auricular acupuncture for pain relief and found that it can provide relief when used within 48 hours of the onset of pain.

Battlefield acupuncture is a unique form of auricular acupuncture used by the military and many Veterans Affairs Healthcare Administration facilities for pain management. Studies show that it is effective at providing immediate pain relief, but more research is required to determine its effectiveness at relieving long-term pain.

Treatment Frequency

How often and how long you receive acupuncture treatments is individual, depending on your condition and the severity of your pain. Your acupuncturist may suggest you be seen once a week or more, over the course of several weeks or months. Your acupuncturist will work with you to determine how long to continue treatments, depending on your response to previous sessions.

(Video) Knee Pain Trigger Point Therapy (Instant Pain Relief)✅

Finding a Practitioner

If you are interested in getting acupuncture for knee pain, be sure to work with a licensed acupuncture practitioner. Most states require acupuncture practitioners to be licensed, though the education, training, and licensing varies from state to state.

How to Find an Experienced and Licensed Practitioner

Ask your healthcare professional for recommendations, or search online for a list of licensed practitioners in your area. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has a directory and registry.

Cost and Insurance

Before trying acupuncture, check with your insurance to see if it will cover all or part of the cost. Many insurance providers in the United States provide some coverage for acupuncture. Costs per session can range anywhere from $75 to $200.

Some acupuncture centers offer treatments on a sliding scale for those who need it. There are also community clinics that provide acupuncture at low or zero cost.

A Word From Verywell

If you are living with knee pain due to injury or arthritis, acupuncture may help provide pain relief on a short-term basis. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before receiving your first acupuncture treatment.

FAQs

How long does it take for acupuncture to work for knee pain? ›

Chronic Knee Pain

In the study, both needle and laser acupuncture resulted in modest improvements in pain at 12 weeks, but not at one year.

Can knee pain be cured by acupuncture? ›

Acupuncture may help reduce short-term pain and improve physical functioning in the short- and long-term in people with knee osteoarthritis. More recent research shows that the pain relieving effects of acupuncture may even last for at least 12 months.

How many acupuncture sessions are needed for knee pain? ›

Three sessions per week of acupuncture treatment may be superior to 1 session per week of acupuncture treatment for symptomatic outcomes in knee osteoarthritis.

Has acupuncture been proven to reduce pain? ›

Acupuncture has long been recognized as an effective treatment for chronic pain. In 2012, a study found acupuncture was better than no acupuncture or simulated acupuncture for the treatment of four chronic pain conditions: Back and neck pain.

How do you know if acupuncture is working? ›

Acupuncture needles are much thinner than medical needles, and they are solid, not hollow. The needles may cause some muscle sensations, such as dull ache or tingling. Your practitioner will ask you to report when you feel a deep heaviness or numbness. Those sensations usually mean the treatment is working.

Does acupuncture actually do anything? ›

National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment alone or in combination with conventional therapies to treat the following: Nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy. Dental pain after surgery.

How effective is acupuncture for knee arthritis? ›

These studies provide evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain and physical dysfunction associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis,1 affecting 80% of those aged 65 or older.

Can acupuncture help damaged cartilage? ›

Acupuncture stimulates knee osteoarthritis cartilage repair by regulating proteins TGF-β1 and IGF-1. Beijing University of Traditional Chinese medicine researchers determined that acupuncture accelerates articular cartilage repair in the osteoarthritic knee by inhibiting the overexpression of TGF-β1 and IGF-1.

Where is the acupuncture point for knee pain? ›

How to find it: This point is on the inside of the lower leg, below the kneecap in the hollow. Directions: Using thumb or fingers, give firm and deep pressure. Repeat on the other leg.

Does acupuncture reduce inflammation? ›

One well-researched effect of acupuncture is reducing inflammation throughout the body. Acupuncture stimulates chemicals that reduce swelling and quiet unwanted immune responses and allergic reactions.

Can acupuncture help a torn meniscus? ›

Here's a little look at some of the research about using acupuncture for knee pain and meniscus tears: Acupuncture can substantially reduce pain, increase mobility, and improve quality of life. It showed similar results to physiotherapy for pain, function, and quality of life as a standalone treatment.

Why do I hurt after acupuncture? ›

Sometimes if the acupuncturist is targeting a specific condition, the body may react to the focused energy flow through that area and there may be an achiness or discomfort for a few minutes as the energy works to balance that area. Most people are not alarmed by this and recognize it as healing.

Does acupuncture work immediately? ›

After two or three sessions, you should start to notice improvements in certain areas. Eventually, you will observe an overall sense of wellness, including your psychological and physical health.

Does acupuncture give immediate relief? ›

You may not experience immediate pain relief from your first acupuncture treatment (although many patients do). A typical treatment course is six to 10 visits, and we generally expect to see some improvement by the sixth visit.

Why does acupuncture not work? ›

Healing will move faster in some more than others, depending on severity of chronic illness or injury and length of time that has passed. If you have had back pain for 10 years, it will take time to get it to move. Most acupuncturists say 6- 8 treatments to start seeing results for any condition.

Does acupuncture help knee cartilage? ›

Acupuncture stimulates cartilage repair for patients with knee osteoarthritis. Using MRIs, researchers have quantified the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. Within four weeks, acupuncture successfully improves the condition of cartilage in the anterior medial and lateral tibial regions of the knee.

What is Prolotherapy and how does it work? ›

Prolotherapy is an injection that contains a potential irritant, such as a dextrose solution. The irritant is thought to trigger the body's healing response. Once activated, the body will start to strengthen and repair damaged ligaments in the joint.

Does acupuncture work on joints? ›

So far, research has shown mixed results. But the American College of Rheumatology, a group for doctors who specialize in arthritis, approves acupuncture for treatment of hand, knee, and hip pain. The evidence is strongest that it can help with knees.

How can I massage myself knee pain? ›

Sit with both feet flat on floor. Place one hand palm down on each upper thigh. Glide down over knee caps across to outside thigh and up to starting position using light to medium pressure. Repeat five times.

What pressure point is behind the knee? ›

Zu san li is located below your kneecap, between the two bones of your lower leg. It's about 2 to 3 inches below the knee on the outer side of your leg. You can find it by putting your hand on the outer side of the leg over your knee with your fingers facing down.

How often should you get acupuncture? ›

A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve one or two treatments a week. The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity. In general, it's common to receive 6 to 8 treatments.

What should I avoid after acupuncture? ›

So, what should clients avoid after acupuncture? Clients should avoid strenuous exercise, caffeine, junk food, alcohol, cold temperatures, digital screens, and, where possible, stressful situations.

Can acupuncture make inflammation worse? ›

But Ma's team also discovered that acupuncture can worsen inflammation when administered at the wrong time, suggesting the ancient healing technique can be harmful if not practiced properly.

Can acupuncture help with torn ligaments? ›

Damaged ligaments would typically be classed as soft-tissue damage, therefore acupuncture may be able to help heal or manage the condition. out of 201 patients, 6% saw minimal improvement, 33% saw remarkable improvement, and 59% saw clinical resolution.

Can a torn knee meniscus heal itself? ›

In the case of meniscus tears, some people think the injury will heal over time on its own. But the truth is that there are different types of meniscus tears — and some tears won't heal without treatment. If your tear is on the outer one-third of the meniscus, it may heal on its own or be repaired surgically.

How do you heal a torn meniscus naturally? ›

To speed the recovery, you can:
  1. Rest the knee. ...
  2. Ice your knee to reduce pain and swelling. ...
  3. Compress your knee. ...
  4. Elevate your knee with a pillow under your heel when you're sitting or lying down.
  5. Take anti-inflammatory medications. ...
  6. Use stretching and strengthening exercises to help reduce stress to your knee.
Jan 26, 2022

How long after acupuncture Do you feel better? ›

You might use this opportunity to start an in-depth emotional conversation with family or friends, or pause your life and find a quiet corner to absorb your emotions. After this period of emotional liberation -usually two or three days – you will feel lighter and more content with your life.

How long do the effects of acupuncture last? ›

In summary, the amount of time the effects of acupuncture last largely depends on the individual's age, symptoms, and treatments they are receiving. This means that the effects can last for either a few days to a couple of weeks.

What happens the day after acupuncture? ›

What to Expect After Treatment: In general, people tend to feel relaxed after an acupuncture treatment. And the days following might even mean better sleep, digestion, and an overall sense of well-being. But some patients report having a deeper, more intense effect in the days following a session.

Is acupuncture once a week enough? ›

It's recommended that clients should start by having 1-2 acupuncture sessions per week, for 2-4 weeks. However, clients with chronic conditions may require more frequent treatment. Whilst 1-2 sessions per week is a good baseline, it's important to assess your client's condition before beginning treatment.

What are 3 benefits of acupuncture? ›

Top 10 Benefits of Acupuncture for Workplace Stress and Pain
  • Reduced Back Pain, Neck Tension and Relieve Joint Pain in the Hands and Arms. ...
  • Relief from Headaches. ...
  • Reduced Eye Strain. ...
  • Improved Immune System and Reduced Sick Days. ...
  • Enhanced Mental Clarity and Increased Energy. ...
  • Relief from Digestive Conditions. ...
  • Allergy Relief.

How do I get the most out of acupuncture? ›

7 Ways to Maximize the Effects of Acupuncture
  1. How You Can Get the Most Out of Acupuncture Treatments. ...
  2. Make sure you have something to eat beforehand. ...
  3. Avoid stimulants and greasy foods. ...
  4. Arrive on time for treatment. ...
  5. Turn off your mobile phone. ...
  6. Plan your day so you don't carry out strenuous activity after treatment.
Aug 15, 2015

How long does it take for acupunture to work? ›

After two or three sessions, you should start to notice improvements in certain areas. Eventually, you will observe an overall sense of wellness, including your psychological and physical health.

What are the negative effects of acupuncture? ›

As with any treatment, acupuncture may cause side effects in some individuals.
...
Side effects may include:
  • Pain and bleeding from the needle insertion.
  • Nausea.
  • Infections.
  • Skin rash.
  • Allergic reaction.
  • Bruising around the area the needles were placed.
  • Dizziness17.
Jun 29, 2022

What are the criticism of acupuncture? ›

One recurring theme of critics is that the concept of acupuncture points has no scientific validity. Meanwhile, the subject of whether-or-not acupuncture points “exist” has been given too little attention within the acupuncture research community.

What does acupuncture heal? ›

What conditions are commonly treated by acupuncture? Hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture show that it successfully treats conditions ranging from musculoskeletal problems (back pain, neck pain, and others) to nausea, migraine headache, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and infertility.

How long does it take to see results from acupuncture? ›

Acupuncture has a short term effect. The period of time you will feel its therapeutic benefits is around 3-4 days. If you are having it only and your problem isn't chronic, you can have it once a week.

How long does it take accupuncture to work? ›

After two or three sessions, you should start to notice improvements in certain areas. Eventually, you will observe an overall sense of wellness, including your psychological and physical health.

Can acupuncture help damaged cartilage? ›

Acupuncture stimulates knee osteoarthritis cartilage repair by regulating proteins TGF-β1 and IGF-1. Beijing University of Traditional Chinese medicine researchers determined that acupuncture accelerates articular cartilage repair in the osteoarthritic knee by inhibiting the overexpression of TGF-β1 and IGF-1.

Does acupuncture reduce inflammation? ›

One well-researched effect of acupuncture is reducing inflammation throughout the body. Acupuncture stimulates chemicals that reduce swelling and quiet unwanted immune responses and allergic reactions.

Is one acupuncture session enough? ›

It Usually Requires Multiple Sessions

While acupuncture is an effective form of pain relief, it usually takes more than one treatment to provide long-term results.

Is acupuncture once a week enough? ›

It's recommended that clients should start by having 1-2 acupuncture sessions per week, for 2-4 weeks. However, clients with chronic conditions may require more frequent treatment. Whilst 1-2 sessions per week is a good baseline, it's important to assess your client's condition before beginning treatment.

How many sessions of acupuncture are needed? ›

A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve one or two treatments a week. The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity. In general, it's common to receive 6 to 8 treatments.

What should you not do after acupuncture? ›

So, what should clients avoid after acupuncture? Clients should avoid strenuous exercise, caffeine, junk food, alcohol, cold temperatures, digital screens, and, where possible, stressful situations.

What are 3 benefits of acupuncture? ›

Top 10 Benefits of Acupuncture for Workplace Stress and Pain
  • Reduced Back Pain, Neck Tension and Relieve Joint Pain in the Hands and Arms. ...
  • Relief from Headaches. ...
  • Reduced Eye Strain. ...
  • Improved Immune System and Reduced Sick Days. ...
  • Enhanced Mental Clarity and Increased Energy. ...
  • Relief from Digestive Conditions. ...
  • Allergy Relief.

How long do the benefits of acupuncture last? ›

In summary, the amount of time the effects of acupuncture last largely depends on the individual's age, symptoms, and treatments they are receiving. This means that the effects can last for either a few days to a couple of weeks.

How effective is acupuncture for knee arthritis? ›

These studies provide evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain and physical dysfunction associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis,1 affecting 80% of those aged 65 or older.

Can acupuncture help a torn meniscus? ›

Here's a little look at some of the research about using acupuncture for knee pain and meniscus tears: Acupuncture can substantially reduce pain, increase mobility, and improve quality of life. It showed similar results to physiotherapy for pain, function, and quality of life as a standalone treatment.

Where is the acupuncture point for knee pain? ›

How to find it: This point is on the inside of the lower leg, below the kneecap in the hollow. Directions: Using thumb or fingers, give firm and deep pressure. Repeat on the other leg.

Can acupuncture make inflammation worse? ›

But Ma's team also discovered that acupuncture can worsen inflammation when administered at the wrong time, suggesting the ancient healing technique can be harmful if not practiced properly.

How do I get the most out of acupuncture? ›

7 Ways to Maximize the Effects of Acupuncture
  1. How You Can Get the Most Out of Acupuncture Treatments. ...
  2. Make sure you have something to eat beforehand. ...
  3. Avoid stimulants and greasy foods. ...
  4. Arrive on time for treatment. ...
  5. Turn off your mobile phone. ...
  6. Plan your day so you don't carry out strenuous activity after treatment.
Aug 15, 2015

Can acupuncture make a condition worse? ›

Following an acupuncture session, some people find that the symptoms of their condition, or illness, temporarily worsen, or 'flare-up'. Some people also experience sweating, dizziness, and feel faint. These effects are usually short-lasting, and pass within a few hours.

Videos

1. How to Relieve Hip & Knee Pain | Reflexology
(Howcast)
2. Study Aims to get to the Point of Dry Needling for Knee Pain
(Ohio State Wexner Medical Center)
3. What types and stages of Arthritis can be healed by Acupuncture? - Dr. Gurudatta H K
(Doctors' Circle - World's Largest Health Platform)
4. Acupuncture for Instant Knee Pain Relief
(Lu Strength & Therapy)
5. acupuncture treatment explained medial knee meniscus
(The Pain Relief and Wellness Clinic)
6. Knee Pain and Traditional Chinese Medicine
(Ryde Natural Health Clinic)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Kareem Mueller DO

Last Updated: 10/02/2022

Views: 5750

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kareem Mueller DO

Birthday: 1997-01-04

Address: Apt. 156 12935 Runolfsdottir Mission, Greenfort, MN 74384-6749

Phone: +16704982844747

Job: Corporate Administration Planner

Hobby: Mountain biking, Jewelry making, Stone skipping, Lacemaking, Knife making, Scrapbooking, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Kareem Mueller DO, I am a vivacious, super, thoughtful, excited, handsome, beautiful, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.