Category Archives: Latest Research
In 2017, the US National Association of Attorneys General wrote to health insurers, asking them to review their policies and promote treatments such as acupuncture, physical therapy and massage, as alternatives to opioid painkillers. Opioid overdose is killing 91 Americans every day, and more than half of these deaths involve prescription drugs. Shortly afterwards, American acupuncture organisations published their joint paper showing how acupuncture could contribute to solving this crisis.
Numerous US federal regulatory agencies have advised or mandated that healthcare systems and providers offer non-pharmacologic treatment options for pain. Acupuncture stands out as the most evidence-based, immediately available choice to fulfil these calls. The authors recommend it as a powerful option which can be used as a first-line, drug-free method for pain relief and management. It can safely and cost-effectively be incorporated into diverse medical settings, resulting in significantly decreased healthcare expenditure, by both treating pain and avoiding opioid addiction. The US Military & Veterans Administration has already used acupuncture to successfully decrease the volume of opioids prescribed.
(Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic: Evidence, Cost-Effectiveness, and Care Availability for Acupuncture as a Primary, Non-Pharmacologic Method for Pain Relief and Management – White Paper 2017. Journal of Integrated Medicine, November 2017.)
A team in Israel studying treatment for warts has found that acupuncture may be able to clear persistent examples by initiating an anti-inflammatory immune response. They recruited 18 patients, aged 20 to 70, with persistent HPV-related warts, and gave them four, weekly sessions of either true or sham acupuncture. Clinical success was defined as total clearance of all warts with no recurrence during a three month follow-up period.
In the treatment group, the clinical success rate was 37%, whereas in the control group, it was zero. Measurement of cytokine levels in participants’ blood suggested that acupuncture may cause a shift towards a Th1-cell-mediated immune response, or an anti-inflammatory effect against the micro-environment induced by the warts.
The authors say that as acupuncture did not involve a direct assault on the lesions, as is usually the case with other treatments, it can be combined with other, more-conventional methods. These results, although moderate, should be sufficient to justify further research. The study found a correlation between lesion regression following acupuncture treatment and immune characteristics, suggesting a mechanism for acupuncture’s effect.
(Immune Modulation & Treatment Of Human Papilloma Virus-Related Warts with Energetics of Living Systems Acupuncture. Medical Acupuncture, 1 June 2017.)
Two pilot studies from China suggest acupuncture can be of help in alleviating cancer pain and fatigue. In the first study, 42 patients with moderate to severe cancer pain and selected from cancer clinics in mainland China and Hong Kong, were randomised to receive acupuncture at one of three possible sets of points. Everyone received seven treatments over a two week period. All patients experienced a decrease in pain, but those in the group needled at LI-4, LV-3, PC-6, ST-36 and SP-6 reported significantly greater pain reduction than the other two groups. The authors say a future multi-centre study with a larger sample size is now warranted.
(A pilot randomized controlled trial of acupuncture at the Si Guan Xue for cancer pain. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 26 June 2017.)
In a second pilot trial, 28 patients with lung cancer and presenting with cancer-related fatigue, were randomised to receive either true or sham acupuncture twice a week for four weeks. After a fortnight, there was a significant reduction in fatigue in the group receiving true acupuncture compared with those receiving sham control. This difference had increased by week six ie a fortnight post-treatment.
(Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double blind placebo-controlled pilot trial. Support Care Cancer, 13 July 2017.)
A systematic review conducted by researchers in the US and China, suggests acupuncture for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a safe and effective treatment option. A total of 12 studies involving 1235 patients were included in the analysis. Patients given acupuncture combined with standard western medication, demonstrated superior overall symptom improvement compared with those receiving standard medication alone. When it came to patients who had only received either acupuncture alone or medication alone, overall symptom improvements was similar for both groups, but recurrence rates were lower in the acupuncture group. The authors add that descriptive analyses suggest acupuncture also improves patients’ quality of life, but that further studies are needed.
(Acupuncture for the treatment of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupuncture in Medicine, 2017.)
Authors of an American systematic review have found acupuncture to be effective for acute pain in the hospital emergency department setting. Meta-analyses were performed on data from 14 randomised controlled trials covering a total of 1210 patients. The trials compared acupuncture with sham, acupuncture with standard analgesia, and also examined acupuncture as an adjunct to standard care.
Acupuncture was more clinically effective than sham, and comparable with conventional drug therapy for acute pain. It was also associated with improved patient satisfaction, lower costs and fewer adverse effects. There was limited evidence suggesting superior results may be achieved when adding adjunctive acupuncture to standard analgesia.
(Does acupuncture have a role in providing analgesia in the emergency setting? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 26 July 2017 epub ahead of print.)
The largest ever pragmatic, randomised trial looking at acupuncture undertaken in hospital emergency departments, has found it is a safe and effective alternative to conventional drugs for acute pain. A total of 1964 patients presenting at four Melbourne hospitals with back pain, migraine and ankle sprain, were randomised to receive acupuncture, acupuncture plus analgesics, or analgesics alone. All patients had to complain of pain rated a minimum of 4 on a 10-point verbal scale. Although neither drugs nor acupuncture offered clinically relevant pain reduction within an hour, patients found either treatment acceptable. The effectiveness of acupuncture was comparable with that of drugs.
(Acupuncture for analgesia in the emergency department: a multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non-inferiority trial. Medical Journal of Australia, 2017.)