February/March 2013 (vol. 09/5)

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Research Plus

Acupuncture for chronic pain

A systematic review of 31 randomised-controlled trials (29 included in a meta-analysis) finds that acupuncture results in significant improvement in four types of chronic pain (back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain) when compared with ‘sham acupuncture’ (where the patient is led to believe they are getting acupuncture but, for example, the needles either do not penetrate the skin or are not inserted into traditional acupuncture sites) and non-acupuncture controls. However, while ‘true’ acupuncture is significantly better than ‘sham’, and thus more than just placebo, the clinical difference is small. The authors suggest that it is the ‘total effects of acupuncture, as experienced by the patient’ – including psychological and non-specific physiological effects – rather than just the correct needle placement that are important.


Archives of Internal Medicine 2012; 172(19): 1444–1453. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357513#Abstract


Occupational Health at Work February/March 2013 (vol. 09/5) pp41