Acupuncture is Effective for Chronic Pain

An international collaboration which included some of the UK’s leading acupuncture researchers, has provided definitive evidence that acupuncture is effective for chronic pain. The collaboration gathered individual patient data for nearly 18 000 patients who took part in 29 high-quality, randomised, controlled trials of acupuncture for four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, shoulder pain, headache and osteoarthritis.

For each of the four conditions, true acupuncture was superior to control, and significantly more effective than usual care alone. The researchers conclude that this study provides the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain. The significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo. However, these differences are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. They hope that their findings will inform policy-making aswell as encourage clinicians to recommend acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment.

(Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine, 10 September 2012.)