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Editor's Page
Acupuncture and Arthroscopy
Dan O'Connor
Publish Date: October 10, 2007

Dan O I've had acupuncture (once, to quit smoking) and I've had arthroscopy (twice on my right knee, once on my left, each time to repair torn cartilage), so it was with deep interest that I read about acupuncture's hidden pain-relieving properties and arthroscopy's great gift of extending the careers of pro athletes. The story about the 5,000-year-old Chinese practice of acupuncture appeared in Anesthesia & Analgesia. The story about the 50-year-old Japanese procedure of arthroscopy appeared in Sports Illustrated.

Dan O ? Acupuncture. Researchers always knew how to relieve nausea and vomiting with acupuncture. What they didn't know was that stimulating the same PONV-reducing acupuncture point also significantly eases post-operative pain, something previously speculated but not studied.

Several acupuncture points have been shown to be good for pain relief, but until now, P6, located near the wrist, wasn't one of them. Duke University researchers stumbled upon P6's pain-relieving abilities almost by accident. They were testing whether the electrical charge from a tiny device in which an electrode like that in standard EKG tests is attached to the specific acupuncture point would provide the same type of antinausea effect achieved with acupuncture needles. Not only did it do that, but it reduced post-op pain as well. In questioning the patients, researchers learned that those treated with electrode stimulation on P6 reported significantly less overall pain and a higher satisfaction level following surgery.

? Arthroscopy. Sports Illustrated's 50th Anniversary Issue ranks scoping as one of the most important events in sports over the past half century.

It was 50 years ago that an orthopedist in Tokyo named Masaki Watanabe perfected a slender tubal telescope lens, which he used to peer inside, and ultimately repair, his patients' knees. Today, players on every pro team have been scoped - 95 percent of them going home hours after leaving the OR and beginning their rehab within days. This passage sums it up nicely: "The great gift of arthroscopy is time, which, in the fleeting career of an athlete, is everything."

I won't bore you with the details of my medical history, only to say the acupuncture was a miserable and expensive ($879) failure, and that my flag football-, pickup basketball- and softball-playing days are over, each sport having taken a bite out of my meniscus. Thankfully, though, I haven't had a cigarette in more than three years and my knees don't bear the scars of my past.