A team researchers at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, studying acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand, has concluded it is effective at reducing pain and disability. They randomly assigned 105 patients, mean age 57, to either true acupuncture, sham acupuncture or a waiting list control. True acupuncture was associated with significantly improved pain, pressure pain threshold, hand grip and arm strength. The number of swollen and/or tender joints also significantly decreased. Health status and quality of life significantly improved with acupuncture.
Sham acupuncture was associated with no significant changes, other than pain improvement. Those on the waiting list showed an overall worsening. The researchers state that the rigorous design of this randomised controlled trial avoids major problems of other studies such as nonspecific effects, weak allocation of acupoints, or lack of objective assessment of effects. They go on to point out the nonpharmacologic and nontoxic nature of acupuncture, which constituted an effective and well-tolerated treatment.
(Effectiveness of Acupuncture on Pain, Functional Disability, and Quality of Life in Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hand: Results of a Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, January 2019.)