Effects of Intensity of Electroacupuncture on Chronic Pain in Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis

A Randomized Controlled Trial

Zheng-tao Lv; Lin-lin Shen; Bing Zhu; Zhao-qing Zhang; Chao-yang Ma; Guo-fu Huang; Jing Yin, Ling-ling Yu; Si-yi Yu; Ming-qiao Ding; Jing Li; Xiao-cui Yuan; Wei He; Xiang-hong Jing; Man Li


Arthritis Res Ther. 2019;21(120) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) is impaired in people with chronic pain such as knee osteoarthritis (KOA). The purpose of this randomized, controlled clinical trial was to investigate whether strong electroacupuncture (EA) was more effective on chronic pain by strengthening the CPM function than weak EA or sham EA in patients with KOA.

Methods: In this multicenter, three-arm parallel, single-blind randomized controlled trial, 301 patients with KOA were randomly assigned. Patients were randomized into three groups based on EA current intensity: strong EA (> 2 mA), weak EA (< 0.5 mA), and sham EA (non-acupoint). Treatments consisted of five sessions per week, for 2 weeks. Primary outcome measures were visual analog scale (VAS), CPM function, and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC).

Results: Three hundred one patients with KOA were randomly assigned, among which 271 (90.0%) completed the study (mean age 63.93 years old). One week of EA had a clinically important improvement in VAS and WOMAC but not in CPM function. After 2 weeks treatment, EA improved VAS, CPM, and WOMAC compared with baseline. Compared with sham EA, weak EA (3.8; 95% CI 3.45, 4.15; P < .01) and strong EA (13.54; 95% CI 13.23, 13.85; P < .01) were better in improving CPM function. Compared with weak EA, strong EA was better in enhancing CPM function (9.73; 95% CI 9.44, 10.02; P < .01), as well as in reducing VAS and total WOMAC score.

Conclusion: EA should be administered for at least 2 weeks to exert a clinically important effect on improving CPM function of KOA patients. Strong EA is better than weak or sham EA in alleviating pain intensity and inhibiting chronic pain.