Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is defined as the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone causing pain and stiffness. Think of cartilage as our bodies’ shock absorbers; as the cartilage wears down, increased contact between bones results in pain and limited range of motion.
Conventional treatment includes anti-inflammatory/analgesic drugs, heat/cold therapy, physical therapy, steroid injections, and surgery. Acupuncture is also very effective in relieving knee pain. Studies have shown that osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee responds well to traditional Chinese acupuncture, with patients reporting decreased pain, improved function and overall better outcomes when compared to other treatment strategies.  Evidence is so strong that many insurance companies have deemed acupuncture “medically necessary” in cases of OA knee pain.
Image source: A Manual of Acupuncture by P.Deadman, K.Baker, and M.Al-Khafaji.
The above illustration shows common local points used to treat OA knee pain: GB-34, ST-36, lateral Xiyan (aka ST-35, Dubi), and medial Xiyan. For patients whose excess weight factors into their joint pain, acupuncture's holistic approach can also regulate digestion and metabolism. I often teach my patients how to locate and massage these points in order to maintain/enhance the effects of an acupuncture treatment.
Michelle M. Ching, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.
Michelle M. Ching is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) and a nationally certified practitioner of Oriental Medicine (Dipl.O.M.). She practices in Los Angeles.