A survey of over 89 000 patients undergoing acupuncture treatment for musculoskeletal pain, has found that 93% of them report that their acupuncturist was successful in treating their primary complaint. Most of these patients had experienced chronic pain over many years, and had sought out an acupuncturist as a last resort, so they were unlikely to have improved spontaneously.
Additionally, 99% of patients rated the quality of care and service they received as good to excellent, thus exceeding national benchmark averages for conventional care providers. Patients also reported high levels of willingness to recommend others to their individual practitioners. The results came from a validated US Department of Health survey tool. Only 0.014% of patients reported a minor adverse event, and no serious ones were documented.
(Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Provided Within a Managed Care Setting Meet Patient Expectations and Quality Outcomes? A 2-Year Retroactive Study of 89,000 Managed Network Patients. American Specialty Health Incorporated Health Services Department.)
Research in Germany suggests that acupuncture reduces the pain of osteoporosis, with sustained and clinically relevant results being observed. In a controlled trial, 53 patients were randomised to receive ten sessions of either acupuncture or a sham control over a period of five weeks. The patients all had pain associated with spinal compression fractures and osteoporosis-related deformities. Pain scores and quality of life measures were recorded at the start of the trial, before each treatment, and again at three month follow-up.
Both acupuncture and control treatments significantly reduced activity-related pain and pain at rest over time. However the true acupuncture group recorded a significantly greater reduction in mean pain intensity at rest compared with the control group. The true acupuncture group also experienced continuous and significant improvements in quality of life for up to three months after treatment had ended. By contrast, patients in the control group experienced only temporary quality of life improvements, and these declined slightly by the end of the three month follow-up period.
(Effects of acupuncture on quality of life and pain in patients with osteoporosis – a pilot randomized controlled trial. Archives of Osteoporosis, December 2016.)
A systematic review by a team of New Zealand-based authors, supports the ability of acupuncture to alter pain-related functional connectivity in the brains of patients with musculoskeletal pain. Seven studies met the team’s inclusion criteria. All of them showed that acupuncture resulted in important changes to activation of brain areas which show abnormal connectivity in patients with chronic pain. The restoration of normal connectivity is associated with pain reduction. The studies looked at 191 patients with four conditions: osteoarthritis, chronic lower back pain, fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The authors conclude that these seven studies support the theory that acupuncture can alter pain-related functional connectivity in the brain. The main implications for clinical practice are that acupuncture is proven to cause important changes in chronic pain states and that acupuncture efficacy is achieved by long-term intervention.
(Does Acupuncture Alter Pain-related Functional Connectivity of the Central Nervous System? A Systematic Review. Journal of Acupuncture & Meridian Studies, August 2016.)
Researchers in Spain have found that individualised acupuncture treatment is effective for pain relief and improving the quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. They randomly assigned 164 patients at three primary care centres, to receive either individualised acupuncture or sham acupuncture, once per week for ten weeks. All patients continued to take any medication they were also on for the condition. Progress was assessed at baseline, 10 weeks, 6 months and 12 months.
At the end of the initial treatment phase, those receiving individualised acupuncture reported a significant decrease (41%) in pain intensity compared with the sham group (27%). This difference persisted at the 12 month follow-up (20% versus 6%). Disease impact scores, fatigue, depression and anxiety were also all significantly better in the individualised acupuncture group at all assessment points. The researchers concluded that since the effect persisted after one year, and side effects were mild and infrequent, the use of individualised acupuncture in patients with fibromyalgia is recommended.
(Acupuncture for fibromyalgia in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine, 15 February 2016.)
Acupuncture may aid recovery after spinal cord injury. Australian researchers pooled the results of twelve randomised controlled studies, and analysis suggests beneficial effects on neurological recovery, motor function and functional recovery. The authors state that at present, the benefit of acupuncture is by no means definitive and well-designed future studies are recommended to confirm it.
(The Impact of Acupuncture on Neurological Recovery in Spinal Cord Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Neurotrauma, 11 December 2015.)