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Pioneering laser acupuncture trial needs more knees

In summary:

  • More participants are needed for an Australian-first clinical trial of the use of laser acupuncture to treat osteoarthritis knee pain
  • UTS PhD student Meikin Li Rees is testing whether the physiological effects of laser offer some advantages over needle-based acupuncture and medication

An Australian-first clinical trial of the use of laser acupuncture to treat osteoarthritis knee pain is showing positive results, but more participants are needed to strengthen its findings according to researcher Meikin Li Rees.

A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and PhD student in the UTS Faculty of Science, Ms Rees said around 30 people had so far taken part in the trial, but more were needed before it concludes.

"It is a double blind trial, meaning that neither the laser operator nor the participant knows whether they are receiving active laser treatment or a placebo," Ms Rees said.

"The jury is still out on the effectiveness of laser acupuncture on osteoarthritis knee pain so the bigger the sample the greater the value of the research.

"Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis and mostly affects people who are middle aged and elderly.

"The condition commonly occurs in the knees when articular cartilage, a protective cushion, is lost from the joint space between bones.

"As the disease progresses, the knee joint slowly changes. In severe cases, when the articular cartilage is gone, the thickened bone ends rub against each other and wear away. This results in a deformity of the knee joint and normal activity becomes painful and difficult."

The UTS trial is testing whether the physiological effects of laser offer some advantages over needle-based acupuncture and medication.

Ms Rees said among the positive stories from the trial is a 70 year-old man who was "very wobbly on his feet at the start and experiencing a lot of pain."

"The man has been amazed at how laser acupuncture has improved his condition. He reports being pain free and has now gets off his regular bus one stop earlier so he can enjoy the walk."

Subject to meeting certain criteria, all participants in the trial receive free treatments and a small payment to cover travelling expenses.

Treatments are provided in the Sydney CBD or Parramatta. To find out more, telephone Meikin Rees on (02) 9630 6388 or send an e-mail to Mei-Kin.L.Rees@student.uts.edu.au.

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