Study supports use of acupuncture for chronic pain

Published on 11 September 2012
Study supports use of acupuncture for chronic pain

Patients with chronic pain who receive acupuncture appear to fare better than those who do not have the complementary therapy, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in the US studied data on almost 18,000 patients who had taken part in previous clinical trials in the US, UK, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

Participants were suffering from chronic pain as a result of conditions such as back and neck pain, osteoarthritis or headache.

The analysis suggests that acupuncture may be better than sham or no acupuncture for patients with some types of chronic pain.

Patients who received acupuncture to treat back and neck pain or osteoarthritis typically reported less pain than those who were given sham acupuncture or no acupuncture at all.

Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study authors confirmed that acupuncture was superior to both no acupuncture and sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain.

They claimed that their findings provide "the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain".

However, they noted: "Although the data indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo, the differences between true and sham acupuncture are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to therapeutic effects."

Acupuncture will be one of several treatments to be reviewed by Arthritis Research UK in its report on complementary therapies, due out later this year.