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Acupuncture Improves Knee Meniscus Repair

Researchers conclude that acupuncture increases the effectiveness of rehabilitation exercises after knee meniscus repair surgery. [1] Patients receiving acupuncture in a controlled clinical trial had less quadriceps atrophy, limping, locking, pain, and swelling than patients receiving only rehabilitation exercises. Patients receiving acupuncture also had significantly better range of motion, stability, and the ability to walk, jump, and climb stairs. 

Researchers from the Third Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University combined acupuncture with functional training exercises. Patients receiving both functional training exercises and acupuncture in a combined treatment protocol had superior patient outcomes compared with patients receiving only functional training exercises. The researchers conclude that the addition of acupuncture to a functional training regimen improves VAS scores, reduces the degree of quadriceps atrophy, increases range of motion (ROM) scores, and improves the Lysholm Knee Scoring Scale scores for patients after arthroscopic meniscus repair surgery.

Each knee has a pair of menisci, which are fibrocartilaginous pads located between the femur and tibia. Each meniscus plays a vital role in absorbing shock, relieving stress, and lubricating and stabilizing the knees. Meniscus tears are often caused either by an acute injury—such as a sudden twist or quick turn during sporting activities, or by chronic strains—such as cartilage degeneration in primary knee osteoarthritis. An individual with a torn meniscus may take a long time to recover, because the blood supply to the region is generally poor. In addition, a lack of proper management of meniscus tears leads to joint pain and instability, quadriceps atrophy, and secondary knee osteoarthritis, causing a negative impact on health and quality of life.

Arthroscopic meniscus surgery requires postoperative protection to allow healing. [2] While often effective, complications caused by this surgery include injuries to skin and nerves, blood clot formation, knee stiffness, and infections. [3] In Traditional Chinese Medicine, meniscus tears are often precipitated by deficiency of qi and blood, as well as poor qi and blood circulation. Acupuncture and moxibustion activate local blood circulation, transform stasis, drain dirty water buildup, and eliminate swelling. Importantly, postoperative application of acupuncture allows for faster recovery times with fewer complications.

Design Researchers (Sun et al.) used the following study design. A total of 70 patients that received an arthroscopic meniscus repair surgery were treated and evaluated in this study. They were randomly divided into an acupuncture treatment group and a control group, with 37 and 33 patients in each group respectively. Both groups received arthroscopic meniscus repair surgery, followed by identical functional training exercises for the knee. The treatment group also received acupuncture and moxibustion.

The statistical breakdown for each randomized group was as follows. The control group was comprised of 17 males and 16 females. The average age in the control group was 52.17 (±9.84) years. The average weight in the treatment group was 72.72 (±12.05) kilograms. The treatment group was comprised of 17 males and 20 females. The average age in the treatment group was 54.67 (±10.94) years. The average weight in the treatment group was 73.56 (±11.95) kilograms. There were no significant statistical differences in gender, age, and weight relevant to patient outcome measures for patients initially admitted to the study. The patients fulfilling the criteria as stated below were selected for the study:

  • Age>18

  • A history of knee injuries

  • Swelling, pain, clicking, locking