A meta-analysis of 20 high-quality randomised trials of acupuncture for chronic pain, shows the beneficial effects of acupuncture persist for at least 12 months. The studies covered data on 6376 patients for conditions such as lower back, neck, and shoulder pain, plus osteoarthritis of the knee, and headache/migraine. The researchers found that in studies comparing acupuncture with a non-acupuncture control such as usual care etc, about 90% of the benefit of acupuncture relative to controls, was sustained 12 months after treatment. In trials comparing acupuncture with sham, the corresponding figure was 50%.
The authors conclude that patients can be reassured that acupuncture offers long-term relief for chronic pain, and that this should be taken into account when assessing the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture.