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Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Pain

Although the reliability of previous studies about the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain has been questioned in the past, a new study shows that this form of complementary and alternative medicine may provide more pain relief for various conditions than conventional therapy. The recent meta-analysis demonstrates a statistically significant benefit of using acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain due to various causes when compared with both usual-care treatments and sham controls.

The ancient art of acupuncture has been recognized to bring certain physiologic effects that can result in pain relief. However, the authors of the study believe that the mechanism that could explain its long-term benefits for chronic pain has not been identified, and the treatment remains “highly controversial. Furthermore, many studies that have been published are inconsistent and unreliable.

Researcher Andrew J. Vickers, DPhil, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues examined 29 studies which included almost 18,000 patients suffering from chronic pain due to a variety of causes, including back and neck pain, chronic headache, and osteoarthritis.

The effects of acupuncture were compared with conventional therapies which included the use of analgesics, exercise and physical therapy programs. It was also compared to sham acupuncture treatments which used non-penetrating needles or non-needle techniques such as inactive electrical stimulation.

After analyzing the different studies, the investigators found that acupuncture offered significant pain relief compared to conventional treatments and sham acupuncture treatments. However, Andrew L. Avins, MD, of Kaiser-Permanente in Oakland, Calif. (not included in the study), noted that  pain relief was more pronounced when acupuncture was compared with usual care than when compared with the sham treatment, suggesting a role for a placebo effect.


Walsh, N. Acupuncture Does Help for Chronic Pain. MedPage Today.



Posted in: Acupuncture, News Briefs, Pain Management

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