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Meta-analysis of traditional Chinese medications for knee osteoarthritis


A collaboration between the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Shanghai and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston produced the first systematic review of qualitative and quantitative evidence for evaluating the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in treating osteoarthritis. Their findings were published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

  • In the review, the researchers proffered that TCM has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects against knee osteoarthritis.
  • The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search using both English and Chinese biomedical databases. The search covered the date of their inception through March 1, 2015.
  • Included in the review are randomized controlled trials of TCM for cases of knee osteoarthritis that have intervention durations of at least two weeks.
  • The researchers measured the effects of TCM on pain, as well as other clinical symptoms, using the visual analog scale (VAS) and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC).
  • Total effectiveness rate was used to measure overall pain. In addition, physical performance and wellness were also evaluated.
  • An independent party extracted data on study design, population characteristics, duration, intervention, outcomes, risk of bias, and primary results.
  • The researchers conducted a random-effects meta-analysis and explored factors for heterogeneity using subgroups and meta-regression analyses.
  • In total, the team found 23 studies (2,362 subjects) that met the eligibility criteria.
  • Based on their findings, knee osteoarthritis was treated with an average of eight Chinese herbs, based on syndrome differentiation, a TCM diagnostic method.
  • On average, treatments lasted for seven weeks, with patients being prescribed to take their medicines orally ranging from one to three times a day.
  • Eighteen studies that compared TCM with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and intra-articular hyaluronate injections found that respondents who underwent the former had more improved VAS pain scores, with six of the studies showing higher WOMAC pain subscale scores. Also, 16 of the trials revealed more improved effectiveness rates.
  • Compared to standard Western treatments, TCM exhibited a lower risk of developing adverse events post-treatment.

In sum, the researchers found that TCM can be used to improve pain, function, and wellness in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Read the full study at this link.

Journal Reference:

Chen B, Zhan H, Marszalek J, Chung M, Lin X, Zhang M, Pang J, Wang C. TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICATIONS FOR KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS PAIN: A META-ANALYSIS OF RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIALS. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2016;44(04):677–703. DOI: 10.1142/S0192415X16500373



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