Acupuncture can Repair Cartilage in Knee Osteoarthritis (KOA) in Rabbits

Severe Joint Osteoarthritis (US Fed. Govt.)

Acupuncture Speeds up Articular Cartilage Repair

For thousands of years traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has claimed that acupuncture could heal knee problems like osteoarthritis of the knee. While acupuncture patients make positive reports of a reduction in pain, this could not be proven scientifically.

Now it was put to the test of scientific scrutiny, which verified that acupuncture halts the destruction of cartilage in the knees of rabbits and promotes healing of the cartilage in the knees by regulating two proteins TGF-β1 and IGF-1. Researchers at the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that acupuncture prevents the over-expression of the two proteins TGF-β1 and IGF-1, which speeds up articular cartilage repair. Laboratory testing also determined that the acupuncture smoothed the surface of the knee cartilage.

Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis (KOA) is the main reason many seniors need to do total knee replacement (TKR) surgery because once the cartilage in the knees becomes completely worn out, there is nothing left to act as a cushion between the bones and the pain of bone rubbing on bone can become too hard to take for some people. This affects their quality of life and also can lead to depression. Surgery is never without risk, especially for the elderly, so if acupuncture can stimulate cartilage to repair itself, then seniors will not have to undergo risky surgery. Also, TKR implants synthetic substances in the knees, whereas acupuncture can heal the body’s own natural cartilage. This is quite a breakthrough and it is to be hoped it will be just as successful with humans as it is with rabbits.

The Study

The randomized study involved 30 rabbits who were divided into three groups.

  1. A control group (N=10)
  2. A knee osteoarthritis model group (N=10)
  3. An acupuncture treatment group (N=10) was the only group that received warm needle acupuncture treatments.

Warm Needle Acupuncture Treatments

Acupuncture warm needle treatments were applied once a day for 20 minutes for four weeks. The four acupoints at the knees for the insertion of the warmed needles followed Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and were as follows:

  1. EX-LE4 (Neixiyan, medial Xiyan)
  2. EX-LE5 (Waixiyan, lateral Xiyan)
  3. SP10 (Xuehai)
  4. GB34 (Yanglingquan)

Acupuncture Improves Circulation to the Knees which Speeds up Healing

The study showed that where there is  an imbalance between the breakdown of knee cartilage and the repair of knee cartilage (TGF-β1 and IGF-1), the result is knee osteoarthritis. Acupuncture treatment is to improve circulation in the knees to speed up healing.

Earlier Studies

Earlier studies involving the relationship of the two proteins TGF-β1 and IGF-1 in knee osteoarthritis were the motivation for the researchers to carry out a scientific experiment to determine exactly how the imbalance between these two proteins leads to knee osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis is one of the main causes of disability in seniors and to date no real cure has been found. It is to be hoped that cartilage can be stimulated by acupuncture to repair itself in humans the way it was found in this Chinese study to be repaired in rabbits.

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