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Follow the latest research regarding osteoarthritis treatment options.

Needle Away Osteoarthritis Pain with Acupuncture

It's estimated that more than 8 million US adults have tried acupuncture. Research suggests that it may be useful for helping manage a wide range of medical conditions, including chemotherapy nausea, dental pain, addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma. So it's not surprising that acupuncture also may hold promise as an add-on to standard medical care for osteoarthritis.

In fact, one of the largest randomized studies ever done on acupuncture (Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 2006) found that it led to improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms.

Needle points

The study by German researchers included more than 3,500 people with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. Over 700 of these patients agreed to be randomly divided into an acupuncture group and a control group, which was included for comparison's sake and didn't receive acupuncture. The rest of the patients, who were interested in acupuncture but didn't consent to random assignment, got the same treatment as the acupuncture group.

The acupuncture treatment used small, hair-thin, metallic needles, which were inserted at specific points on the body. Those in both the randomized and nonrandomized acupuncture groups received up to 15 sessions over a three-month period. The number of needles and location of the placement points were chosen by each person's treatment provider, which was meant to reflect the way acupuncture actually is done in day-to-day life.

Everyone in the study also got standard medical care throughout this period. Pain, stiffness and disability decreased more in the acupuncture groups than in the control group. Quality of life also improved more among those who received acupuncture. What's more, the benefits of acupuncture were still evident three months later.

Acupuncture basics

Acupuncture needles are very slender. While their insertion might cause a slight stinging or tingling sensation, it usually isn't painful. After being put in place, the needles sometimes are moved gently by hand or stimulated with electricity or heat.

In traditional Chinese medicine, vital life energy, called qi ("chee"), is thought to flow through the body along pathways called meridians. According to this view, blockages in the flow of qi can lead to disease, while stimulating specific points along the meridians can help remove blockages.

In contrast, Western medicine's explanation of how acupuncture might work focuses on the body's nervous, immune and circulatory systems. According to one theory, brain chemicals called endorphins may be released during acupuncture. These chemicals function as natural pain-relievers. A second theory focuses on the release of various other brain chemicals and hormones. These substances, in turn, help regulate immune reactions. A third theory suggests that acupuncture may work by increasing blood flow to the area around the needle. The increased flow of blood helps supply more nutrients and remove more toxins.

The bottom line

Even though scientists are still debating how acupuncture works, it's increasingly clear that it may. Another large randomized study involving people with osteoarthritis (Annals of Internal Medicine, December 21, 2004) — this one supported by the National Institutes of Health — also found that acupuncture as an adjunct to standard medical treatment led to reduced pain and improved function.

If you're interested in trying acupuncture, talk to your doctor first to make sure it's right for you. When choosing an acupuncturist, be sure to check credentials. Look for licensure by the state and/or certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. In addition, about 3,000 medical doctors now use acupuncture in their practices. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture offers an online directory of physicians who perform acupuncture (www.medicalacupuncture.org).

PLEASE NOTE: The studies and their findings that are presented in this article are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of the advice of your doctor. By providing you with this information, Sanofi Biosurgery is not endorsing its content nor does it represent that the information is necessarily appropriate for you. You should consult with your doctor before starting any new health or exercise regimen.

References

“Acupuncture.” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture. Accessed September 6, 2011.

"Acupuncture in Patients with Osteoarthritis of the Knee or Hip: A Randomized, Controlled Trial With an Additional Nonrandomized Arm." C.M. Witt et al. Arthritis & Rheumatism. November 2006, vol. 54, no. 11, pp. 3485-3493.

“Acupuncture.” Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946. Accessed September 6, 2011.

"Effectiveness of Acupuncture as Adjunctive Therapy in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized, Controlled Trial." B.M. Berman et al. Annals of Internal Medicine. December 21, 2004, vol. 141, no. 12, pp. 901-910.

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Indication

Synvisc-One® (hylan G-F 20) is indicated for the treatment of pain in osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conservative non-pharmacologic therapy and simple analgesics, e.g., acetaminophen.

Important Safety Information for Synvisc-One

Before trying Synvisc-One, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face, tongue or throat, respiratory difficulty, rash, itching or hives to SYNVISC or any hyaluronan-based products. Allergic reactions, some which can be potentially severe, have been reported during the use of Synvisc-One. Should not be used in patients with an infected knee joint, skin disease or infection around the area where the injection will be given, and should be used with caution when there is swelling of the legs due to problems with venous stasis or lymphatic drainage.

Synvisc-One is only for injection into the knee, performed by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. Synvisc-One has not been tested to show pain relief in joints other than the knee. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to products from birds – such as feathers, eggs or poultry – or if your leg is swollen or infected.

Synvisc-One has not been tested in children (≤21years old), pregnant women or women who are nursing. You should tell your doctor if you think you are pregnant or if you are nursing a child.

Talk to your doctor before resuming strenuous weight-bearing activities after treatment.

The side effects sometimes seen after Synvisc-One include (<2% each): pain, swelling, heat, redness, and/or fluid build-up in or around the knee. Tell your doctor if you experience any side effects after treatment with Synvisc-One.

 

View the Complete Prescribing Information for Synvisc-One

 

Indication

SYNVISC® (hylan G-F 20) is used to relieve knee pain due to osteoarthritis (OA). It is for patients who do not get enough relief from simple painkillers such as acetaminophen, or from exercise and physical therapy.

Important Safety Information for SYNVISC

Before trying SYNVISC, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face, tongue or throat, respiratory difficulty, rash, itching or hives to SYNVISC or any hyaluronan-based products. Serious allergic reactions have been reported. Should not be used in patients with an infected knee joint, skin disease or infection around the area where the injection will be given, or circulatory problems in the legs.

SYNVISC is only for injection into the knee, performed by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. SYNVISC has not been tested to show pain relief in joints other than the knee. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to products from birds - such as feathers, eggs or poultry - or if your leg is swollen or infected.

SYNVISC has not been tested in children (≤21years old), pregnant women or women who are nursing. You should tell your doctor if you think you are pregnant or if you are nursing a child. Talk to your doctor before resuming strenuous weight-bearing activities after treatment.

The side effects sometimes seen after SYNVISC include pain, swelling, heat, redness, and/or fluid buildup in or around the knee. These reactions were generally mild and did not last long, but in rare occasions these side effects were more severe. The most commonly occurring adverse events outside of the injected knee were rash, fever, nausea, and headache.

View the Complete Prescribing Information for SYNVISC

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Important Safety Information: SYNVISC and Synvisc-One are contraindicated in patients with known hypersensitivity to hyaluronan products or patients with infections in or around the target knee.