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Strong electro-acupuncture (EA) is better than weak or sham EA at alleviating pain intensity and inhibiting chronic pain in knee osteoarthritis (KOA) patients, and treatment should be administered for at least two weeks. Chinese investigators randomised 301 patients with KOA into three groups based on EA current intensity: strong EA (> 2 mA), weak EA (< 0.5 mA), and sham EA (non-acupoint). Participants in the strong and weak EA groups received treatment at the same four acupoints - Neixiyan MN‑LE‑16, Dubi ST-35, Liangqiu ST-34 and Xuehai SP-10, unilaterally. Treatments consisted of five sessions per week, for two weeks. One week of EA resulted in a clinically relevant improvement in pain scores, but not in conditioned pain modulation (CPM). CPM refers to the ability of one noxious stimulus to reduce the perception of a second noxious stimulus at a remote area of the body, and is a function of the endogenous pain inhibitory pathway. After two weeks of treatment, EA improved both pain scores and CPM, compared with baseline. Compared with sham EA, weak EA and strong EA were better at improving CPM. Compared with weak EA, strong EA was better at enhancing CPM, as well as reducing pain scores.

Effects of intensity of electroacupuncture on chronic pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019 May 14;21(1):120


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