Acupuncture for Knee Pain: Benefits, Results, and Cost

Knee pain has many causes, ranging from acute injury to long-term conditions such as osteoarthritis. Depending on the cause, acupuncture can be an effective way to relieve knee pain.

Acupuncture is a practice that stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It involves inserting thin metal needles into specific points on the skin.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there is some evidence that acupuncture can help with osteoarthritis knee pain and pain that occurs after surgery. However, scientists don’t fully understand how it works.

Read on to learn more about acupuncture for knee pain, including what the research says about its effectiveness for various knee conditions, acupuncture points for knee pain, results, and cost.

Acupuncture can help with knee pain, but it depends on the cause.

The technique cannot replace first aid for acute injuries or surgery to repair knee structures. However, doctors may recommend using it as an adjunctive therapy in addition to medical treatment for some conditions.

Ligament and tendon injuries

Ligaments and tendons are different types of connective tissue that connect muscles and bones. Injuries to ligaments and tendons are among the most common knee injuries.

a 2020 review of the use of acupuncture for sports injuries, many previous case studies reported positive effects such as less pain and faster recovery after treatment.

However, this review included many case studies that focused on different types of injuries and used different forms of acupuncture. More research on knee injuries is needed to determine the effectiveness of this treatment.

Postoperative pain

The use of acupuncture for postoperative pain has become increasingly common in recent years.

A 2021 study examined the effectiveness of acupuncture in reducing postoperative pain in people who had had a total knee replacement. It was found that using the method with other treatments reduced postoperative pain and the need for analgesics.

A 2019 review of 26 previous studies found that auricular acupuncture, which takes place in the ear, may also help reduce postoperative pain. However, the researchers say there is a need for higher-quality, large-scale trials.


Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint wears down, allowing bones to rub against each other. This causes swelling, pain, and difficulty moving the affected joint.

According to NCCIH, acupuncture may be effective in reducing osteoarthritis pain. Previous research suggests that acupuncture is comparable to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for managing pain.

Scientists don’t fully understand how acupuncture works to reduce pain. Some proofs suggests that inserting needles may affect hormone levels, which may affect how the brain perceives pain.

According to TCM practitioners, there are approximately 361 acupuncture points in the human body. These points run along meridians, which practitioners describe as pathways for life energy to flow through the body. These meridians may correspond to peripheral nerves.

Some acupuncture points a doctor may use to treat knee pain include:

  • Yin Ling Quan or spleen 9, which is located in the hollow of the inner thigh, below the kneecap
  • Yang Ling Quan or Gallbladder 34, which is located just below the outer knee, above the shin
  • Dubi or abdomen 35, which is below the kneecap towards the outer leg
  • Zusanli or abdomen 36, which is located on the outside leg, below the kneecap
  • Weiyang or urinary bladder 39, which is located on the outer edge of the center of the back of the knee
  • Weizhong or urinary bladder 40, which is located in the middle of the back of the knee

Depending on the type and cause of pain a person has, the results of acupuncture can last for months or longer 1 year.

Usually the technique involves several sessions. Chronic pain may require more sessions, while acute pain may require fewer sessions.

However, some people may not experience any benefits after receiving acupuncture. Alternatively, they may only experience short-term effects. Anyone wanting to try acupuncture should discuss creating a treatment plan with their doctor and acupuncturist.

The cost of one acupuncture session can range from about $75 to $200. Some insurance companies offer full or partial coverage, but some don’t. It may depend on the condition someone has, whether other treatments have been effective and how many sessions someone needs.

People may want to check whether their insurance covers acupuncture when considering treatment.

A person should only receive acupuncture from a qualified professional. Improper administration of the technique can have serious risks, such as infections and injury to internal organs.

Most states require acupuncture practitioners to be licensed, and some offer an acupuncture license search to help verify that a person is operating legally.

People can find an acupuncturist using the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine directory.

When looking for an acupuncturist, a person should check their credentials and consider speaking to them before booking a session. This can make people feel safe and comfortable around them.

Although scientists do not yet fully understand acupuncture, there is some evidence that it may be useful for treating some types of knee pain. It can help with pain due to osteoarthritis, postoperative pain and possible acute knee injury.

The benefits of acupuncture can last for varying amounts of time, so a person may need repeated sessions. However, it should not be used as a substitute for professional health care and individuals should consult a doctor before trying it.

Acupuncture for Knee Pain: Benefits, Results, and Cost

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