by David Douglas

Last Updated: 2007-11-09 16:30:19 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Initial findings suggest that periosteal stimulation therapy (PST), also known as osteopuncture, may be effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA)-associated chronic knee pain in the elderly, according to Pennsylvania-based researchers.

"PST may be a safe treatment alternative for older adults with advanced knee osteoarthritis and chronic pain," lead investigator Dr. Debra K. Weiner told Reuters Health, "but additional studies are needed to determine the extent to which its benefits can be sustained before recommendations can be made about routinely incorporating PST into clinical practice."

In the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, Dr. Weiner, of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues note that PST uses direct electrical stimulation of the periosteum and associated nerves via acupuncture needles applied over bony prominences.

To investigate its efficacy, the team studied 88 patients who had had moderate knee pain for at least 3 months. They were randomized to receive PST or a control procedure once a week for 6 weeks.

Although pain was reduced to a significantly greater degree in the PST group both after the PST sessions and at 1 month, by 2 months, pain had returned to pre-intervention levels.

Overall, there were no significant between-group differences in measures of physical performance, improvement or analgesic use.

Nevertheless, the investigators conclude that "this initial controlled clinical trial indicates that PST is safe and effective in providing modest, short-term pain reduction for older adults with chronic knee pain associated with advanced OA."

J Am Geriatr Soc 2007;55:1541-1547.