Acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and blood-letting for gouty arthritis

As anyone who’s ever suffered it knows, gout is a horrible business. It’s a metabolic condition which can lead to a build up of uric acid in your system, forming crystals in your joints, and flaring up with nasty pain, swelling and redness in your joints.

As the scientific research into traditional Chinese medicine is becoming more advanced, it has been interesting to see studies done on not just standard acupuncture, but also electroacupuncture and traditional Chinese medicinal bleeding (blood-letting).

Acupuncture for gout

In 2018 a systematic review (a study of all the available studies) concluded that:

Ten RCTs [Randomised Controlled Trials] involving 852 gouty arthritis patients were systematically reviewed. Among them six studies of 512 patients reported a significant decrease in uric acid in the treatment group compared with a control group, while two studies of 120 patients reported no significant decrease in uric acid in the treatment group compared with the control group. The remaining four studies of 380 patients reported a significant decrease in visual analogue scale score in the treatment group … The results of the studies included here suggest that acupuncture is efficacious as complementary therapy for gouty arthritis patients.”

Electroacupuncture for gout

Electroacupuncture is a technique which uses a small machine with wires and clips, to apply a small electric current across some of the acupuncture needles. Generally this gives an odd, tapping, kind of feeling, rather than being painful. In 2024, a research team did a systematic review and meta analysis (where the data from multiple studies is pooled and re-examined) and found that:

“This systematic review examined 15 randomized controlled trials that investigated the use of electroacupuncture as a treatment for AGA [Acute Gouty Arthritis] … The current meta-analysis suggests that electroacupuncture and conventional treatments have comparable efficacy and safety in targeting painful symptoms in patients with AGA … Our study showed that when electroacupuncture and medication were used together, there was a more significant decrease in serum uric acid than alone.”

Traditional Chinese medicinal bleeding (blood-letting) for gout

A 2022 systematic review and meta analysis is not presented in the most accessible language, but it concluded that:

“BLT [Blood-Letting Therapy] is effective in alleviating pain and decreasing CRP level [serum C-reactive protein] in AGA [Acute Gouty Arthritis] patients with a lower risk of evoking adverse reactions.”

CRP is a blood test that is indicative of your body’s level of inflammation.

More research ongoing

All three studies (like other studies into many different kinds of medical intervention) also noted limitations in the evidence base to date, and encouraged further research into these topics.

I was surprised to find all three of these systematic reviews on this topic, it’s fabulous to see the evidence base moving forwards! I look forward to hearing what comes next.

Try Chinese Medicine for your gout symptoms

I offer all three of these treatments, in a fully tailored approach driven by your individual needs and preferences. To see if they may be able to help in your case, just get in touch.


Lee WB, Woo SH, Min BI, Cho SH. Acupuncture for gouty arthritis: a concise report of a systematic and meta-analysis approach. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013 Jul;52(7):1225-32. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ket013. Epub 2013 Feb 18. PMID: 23424263.

Ni Z, Xiao Q, Xia Z, Kuang K, Yin B, Peng D. Electroacupuncture for acute gouty arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Front Immunol. 2024 Jan 4;14:1295154. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2023.1295154. PMID: 38239361; PMCID: PMC10794621.

Li SH, Hu WS, Wu QF, Sun JG. The efficacy of bloodletting therapy in patients with acute gouty arthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2022 Feb;46:101503. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101503. Epub 2021 Nov 11. PMID: 34814062.

Image by cnick from Pixabay

Acupuncture for knee arthritis can help

Research suggests that acupuncture for osteoarthritic knee pain can reduce pain, improve mobility and help with quality of life. Acupuncture for arthritic knee pain even appears to be more effective than several other treatments, including standard medical care.

And so many people are suffering – Arthritis Australia says that 1 in 6 Australians has arthritis, and around half of those are of working age. It’s the leading cause of chronic pain.

If you have osteoarthritic (OA) knee pain, acupuncture may be able to help.

What does the research say?

The Acupuncture Evidence Project summarises the the research supporting acupuncture for knee arthritis pain like this:

“ Knee osteoarthritis pain was not reviewed in the Australian DVA review (2010) and rated as evidence of potential positive effect in the USVA Evidence map of acupuncture (2014) (5, 6). In a network meta-analysis comparing 22 interventions in 152 studies, acupuncture was found to be equal to balneotherapy and superior to sham acupuncture, muscle-strengthening exercise, Tai Chi, weight loss, standard care and aerobic exercise (in ranked order) (52). Acupuncture was also superior to standard care and muscle-strengthening exercises in a sub-analysis of moderate to high quality studies (52). In a systematic review of 12 randomised controlled trials, acupuncture was found to significantly reduce pain intensity, to improve functional mobility and quality of life (53). Subgroup analysis showed greater reduction in pain intensity when treatment lasted for more than four weeks (53). The reviewers concluded that current evidence supports the use of acupuncture as an alternative for traditional analgesics in patients with osteoarthritis (53). ”

How does acupuncture for knee arthritis work?

Chinese Medicine sees this in terms of releasing blockages to the flow of your Qi, your vital energy.  Where there is obstruction and stiffness, there should be flow and ease.

From a scientific perspective, there are a range of ideas about how acupuncture is able to reduce pain – for example it may have an anti inflammatory effect.  This is an area where lots of research is going on, with interesting information emerging all the time.

What will my treatment look like?

Your treatment will be all about you, and personalised to your needs.  You are a richly flavoured individual, not just a pair of knees! 

We will discuss your health holistically, to fully understand the context of your knee problem, and how best to help.  Your treatment plan will fit you as an individual.

Try acupuncture for your knee arthritis

Get in touch today to book your first appointment.


5. Biotext. Alternative therapies and Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold and White Card arrangements. In: Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs, editor: Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs; 2010.

6. Hempel S, Taylor SL, Solloway MR, Miake-Lye IM, Beroes JM, Shanman R, et al. VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Reports. Evidence Map of Acupuncture. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs; 2014.

52. Corbett MS, Rice SJ, Madurasinghe V, Slack R, Fayter DA, Harden M, et al. Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Sep;21(9):1290-8.

53. Manyanga T, Froese M, Zarychanski R, Abou-Setta A, Friesen C, Tennenhouse M, et al. Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:312.

Image by Dr. Manuel González Reyes from Pixabay