The researchers looked at 90 patients with the problem who attended two GP run knee pain clinics and who were monitored for two years.
The patients were treated by specially trained acupuncture nurses to see whether this could improve care, reduce costs and offer a viable alternative to knee replacement surgery.
While surgery works well and provides value for money, say the authors, it is not suitable for everyone. As many as one in seven patients feel severe pain a few years after the procedure.
Knee ostoearthritis is common causing significant pain in 17pc of the population over the age of 50.
Out of 114 patients who were offered acupuncture for their problem, 90 accepted and were treated in the two clinics. All of the patients, whose average age was 71, had severe symptoms and were in constant pain, day and night and unable to walk far.
Fifty patient said they would prepared to have surgery – four would have the operation as a last resort and 29 said they did not want surgery.
They were all given acupuncture once a week for a months and then the frequency of the sessions was reduced to one every six week.
Forty one patients were still attending the clinics after a year and 31 were still being treated after two years.
The study showed clinically significant improvements in pain levels, stiffness and functional capacity after one month of treatment. These improvements continued throughout the two year monitoring period.
The study was carried out at the St Albans, Hertfordshire, England.