Acupuncture for Knee Pain: Things To Know

Knee pain can make everyday activities like running, walking, and even standing difficult. In some cases, if the pain is too severe, it can also keep you up at night.

Opioids were once the top pain relief medication doctors recommended to patients to relieve their pain. However, they cause side effects like dizziness, nausea, and constipation.

Physicians now see acupuncture as an excellent alternative for knee pain relief. It’s a cost-effective treatment that doesn’t pose any risk to patients. Physicians have actually added it to the list of arthritis treatments in their national guidelines.

Here’s what you need to know about acupuncture for knee pain, its benefits, and what you should expect during a session.

Causes of Knee Pain

Most knee problems are due to aging and the constant wear and tear of the knee joints. Injuries or sudden movement that strains your knee also cause knee pain. Some common causes of knee pain are:


Overusing a tendon doing certain activities like cycling, running, or jumping can inflame your knee’s tendons. Also known as jumper’s knees, tendonitis of the patellar tendon is often observed in sports like basketball or volleyball, where the force of landing after a jump strains the tendons.

Strained or Sprained Knee Ligaments

A sudden twisting motion or a blow to the knee strains or sprains the knee ligaments. Symptoms include swelling, pain, and difficulty walking.

Torn Cartilage

Trauma to the knee can damage the menisci, the pads of connective tissue in your knees that absorb shock and improve stability. Sprains can also tear cartilage.


There are many types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the knee is the most common form of arthritis in middle-aged and older adults. It occurs when the cartilage in your knee joint slowly wears away due to excessive stress caused by obesity or repeated injuries.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that inflames the knee’s cartilage, leading to damage. People with rheumatoid arthritis are often younger than those with osteoarthritis.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a widely used alternative therapy based on traditional Chinese medicine. Trained practitioners insert needles into the skin over areas believed to be connected to energy points and channels throughout the body.

This therapy aims to increase the flow of Qi, an energy force that flows throughout the body that promotes health and well-being. Acupuncture activates many processes within the body that can reduce pain in their respective ways.

Other forms of acupuncture for knee pain may include:

Auricular Acupuncture

In acupuncture, the ear is believed to have acupuncture points corresponding to every part of the body. A review of 10 studies on auricular pain relief found it provides pain relief effectively when administered 48 hours after pain onset.


Electroacupuncture is a modified version of acupuncture that uses two needles instead of the standard one. A mild electric current passes between the needles, providing additional acupoint stimulation.

One research study found that people with knee osteoarthritis experienced a significant decrease in pain and stiffness and improved physical function following electroacupuncture treatment.

Battlefield Acupuncture

Battlefield acupuncture is an exclusive form of auricular acupuncture used by the military and many Veterans Affairs Healthcare Administration facilities for pain management. Studies prove it effectively relieves pain. However, its long-term effectiveness still needs more research.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Knee Pain

Knee pain can reduce mobility, affect the quality of life, and interfere with a good night’s rest. Some of the benefits of acupuncture for patients with knee pain include the following:

Release of Feel-Good Hormones

Inserting acupuncture needles into the right acupuncture knee points can trigger the release of endorphins, otherwise known as “feel good” hormones. They block the nerve cells receiving the pain signals, reducing pain and allowing you to continue moving and functioning during stressful situations.

Decrease in Stress Hormones

Aside from releasing more feel-good hormones, knee acupuncture decreases cortisol production. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that controls inflammation. The more cortisol you have, the more painful you perceive your knee pain as. Having less cortisol reduces inflammation and the pain you perceive, improving knee function and mobility.

How Does a Typical Acupuncture Session Go?

Your acupuncturist will gather information about your health, including your medical history, lifestyle, and the condition you’re seeking treatment for.

Your acupuncturist will ask you to sit or lie down before they begin, depending on where they’re going to place the needles. You may have to roll your sleeves or pant legs up to give your acupuncturist access to the body parts where they will insert the needles.

Acupuncturists disinfect the area where they’re going to insert the needles. You will feel little to no discomfort once they insert the needles. Some even feel more relaxed or energized after the needles are inserted. Unless you move too much during treatment or a needle is improperly placed, you shouldn’t feel any pain.

Expect to stay for a while; most treatment sessions last 30 minutes to an hour.

Some patients don’t feel any immediate results after their appointment, especially if they have a chronic condition. Each person responds to acupuncture differently, and it may take several sessions before you notice any results.

There are no physical restrictions after an acupuncture session, but you might have better results if you avoid vigorous activity, stress, exercise, or other strenuous activities.

Knee Acupuncture: Does It Pose Any Risk?

Acupuncture is safe when administered by a licensed, trained professional. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that there have been few reported complications from acupuncture. Make sure your practitioner only uses sterilized, one-time-use needles as required by the Food and Drug Administration.

However, patients with a pacemaker shouldn’t try electroacupuncture. You should also tell your practitioner if you are taking blood thinners, pregnant, or planning to get pregnant; some acupuncture points can stimulate labor.

Key Takeaway

Knee pain is one of the most common ailments affecting our day-to-day lives and quality of life. Its causes include arthritis and knee and cartilage issues like inflammation, tearing, sprains, and strains.

Healthcare providers now include acupuncture in their primary treatment options for knee pain. It’s safe and carries minimal risk to patients, all while providing pain relief and overall wellness.

Find knee pain relief today with the help of Advanced Chiropractors Group!

Our partner chiropractors in Vail provide acupuncture and chiropractic services to relieve knee pain and other body aches and pains. They provide safe and effective treatments that suit your needs. Contact us today and start living your life pain-free.

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