Articles in Category: Acupuncture

Management of Osteoarthritis with Traditional Acupuncture

Written by Richard McMahon, BSc (Acupunture), Dip Remedial Massage on Wednesday, 11 November 2015. Posted in General Health, Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine

Management of Osteoarthritis with Traditional Acupuncture

By Richard McMahon

BHSc (Acupuncutre), Dip Remedial Massage

Overview of Osteo-Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive degenerative joint disease that is characterised by the gradual loss of cartilage and subsequent loss of joint movement and pain. It is a leading cause of disability among adults and is associated with major impacts on physical function and mobility. Diagnosis is based on radiological changes and the clinical presentation of joint pain; including tenderness, limitation of movement, crepitus (crunching sounds), and variable degrees of localized inflammation. The prevalence, disability, and associated costs of treating osteoarthritis are expected to steadily increase due to our aging population. It is estimated that approximately 10% of men and 18% of women aged 60 years or older have symptomatic osteoarthritis worldwide. As there is currently no known cure for Osteo-arthritis treatment focuses on management of symptoms. It is common practice to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, paracetamol or in severe cases opioid drugs for pain management. These strategies come with potential side effects so alternate strategies may be desired by patients suffering from the condition.


Included is a summary of a meta-analysis of the studies that have been undertaken on the use of acupuncture in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Additionally an individual study performed in the UK notes the response and cost effectiveness of acupuncture. Also of interest is the inclusion of electro acupuncture for patients who are poor responders to traditional acupuncture and suggestions for treatment frequency and duration.

The systemic review and meta-analysis is titled “Pain management with acupuncture in Osteo- arthritis” by Manyanga et al. The stated objective of the review was to identify and synthesize date from previous randomized controlled trials comparing acupuncture to sham acupuncture, usual care, or no treatment, in adults diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Usual care refers to conservative therapy, pharmacological treatments, and rehabilitive exercises. In most trials, acupuncturists employed traditional hand stimulation of the acupuncture points. The most commonly used acupuncture points were ST34, ST36, Xiyan, GB34 and SP9. These are considered local points and belong to the traditional channel network of Chinese Medicine. Please see our previous articles on Sports Medicine Acupuncture to understand the importance of local, adjacent and distal acupuncture in traditional protocols.

The analysis includes 12 trials and a total of 1763 participants. Duration of interventions ranged from two to twelve weeks, with total follow-up durations ranging from four to 52 weeks. Through the review the researchers found acupuncture administered to adults with osteoarthritis to be associated with a statistically significant reduction in pain intensity, improved functional mobility and improved health-related quality of life. Reductions in pain were greater in trials with longer intervention periods. Major adverse events with acupuncture were not reported. The researchers suggest that acupuncture is most effective for reducing osteoarthritic pain when administered for more than four weeks. The researchers also postulate that due to the chronic inflammatory nature of OA it may be necessary for a “threshold dose” to obtain benefits and as such recommend 10 treatments on average with the aim of reversing the pathological changes that may have occurred in the central nervous system in regards to pain modulation.[i]


The second study noted above reports on a nurse led acupuncture study with the aim of postponing or avoiding knee surgery for patients with OA of the knee. 90 patients agreed to participate and after 1 month the trial achieved clinically significant improvements in pain, stiffness and function which continued for up to 2 years for over a third of patients. Acupuncture was given at weekly intervals for 1 month, and then reduced progressively to 6 weekly which mirrors common clinical practice. Patients who did not respond to manual acupuncture are given electro acupuncture and treatment was discontinued at 6 weeks if there is still no response. The researchers concluded that the use of acupuncture was associated with significant reductions in pain intensity and an improvement in functional mobility and quality of life. [ii]

Treatment recommendations

As noted in the above studies acupuncture treatment of OA is best performed weekly for 4-6 weeks and then gradually spread out to a maintenance dose as pain and stiffness decreases. Maintenance schedule depends on a patient’s response to treatment which will be determined by the underlying level of degeneration, their tendencies towards inflammation and the amount of activity required in their day to day lives.


[i] Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Manyanga et al. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014; 14: 312.

[ii] Group acupuncture for knee pain: evaluation of a cost-saving initiative in the health service, White et al, Acupunct Med. 2012 Sep; 30(3): 170–175.













Red Flags

Written by Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD. on Wednesday, 23 September 2015. Posted in Massage, General Health, Acupuncture, Training and Performance, Chiropractic

Red Flags

Red Flags

By Don Williams

B.Sc., M.Chiro., ICSSD., PG Dip. NMS Rehabilitation Cert DNS. Memb: FICS, CEA


Health care practice is an interesting and ever changing profession. One of the challenges that keep us on our toes is the assessment and management of different injuries and ailments.


The first goal in assessment is (or certainly should be) to identify what the complaint is, whether it is a serious or potentially serious condition that requires urgent intervention.


Recently, we have had a number of quite serious cases which have left us a little baffled as to the management they had unfortunately NOT received.


So this month I thought I would write an article on important symptoms to watch out for so you are not feeling sore and sorry.


Red Flags; this is believe it or not, a technical term for signs and symptoms which may indicate serious underlying pathology. These flags are many and varied and their presence is merely a potential indicator of pathology. This means that just because you have a “Red Flag” doesn’t mean you have a problem.


In compiling this list, it is by no means exhaustive and is a reflection of some of the things that we see showing up in our clinic.


So regionally, what are the things you should watch out for and what can they mean?


Back Pain

If you have back pain with referral down the leg, total numbness or loss of muscle strength it may be important. Loss of bowel and bladder control is certainly something we would want to know about.


Chest Pain

Most people know that chest pain can be an indicator of a heart attack. Most people realise that this is more commonly on the left side, however, pain in the lower front of the neck, the left arm, the left upper back and the right side of the chest can also be indicators. This would be reinforced by an increase in pain with exercise and or shortness of breath.


Night pain

Pain that wakes you from sleep is a concern, additionally; if this pain is accompanied by night sweats we would be a little more concerned. Sudden loss or gain in weight for no apparent reason is also a concern.



“The worst headache I have ever had” is not a great thing to hear. If this is in conjunction with vomiting and dizziness it is more of a concern. The feeling that the head is going to explode is more of a concern. Disturbances in any of your higher senses (vision, taste, hearing or smell) can also be a concern



Unremitting pain of 6 months or more of duration may be serious. If this is high intensity pain, then it is more of a concern. If the problem is not responding to conservative treatment then it is more concerning again.


If you have had a problem which won’t go away or you have some interesting symptoms that you are just not sure about, then get them checked out. Sometimes they may mean nothing, sometimes they may be important. My thought, always, if in doubt check it out.