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Acupuncture for chronic pain

The findings on acupuncture for pain are incredibly significant. In the United Kingdom, an estimated 4 million acupuncture sessions are given each year, with chronic pain being the most popular reason for seeking acupuncture (Hopton et al., 2012).

chronic pain

Pain is the most common ailment for which acupuncture is used

Acupuncture for chronic pain

A group of scientists, supported by grants from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) conducted a systematic review to identify evidence from high-quality trials of acupuncture for chronic pain (MacPherson et al., 2017). A total of 17,922 individuals were involved, all of whom were suffering from some musculoskeletal pain including:

-Neck pain

-Low bak pain

-Osteoarthritis of the knee

-headache and migraine

-Shoulder pain

The authors gathered the results from individual patient data meta-analysis of the 17,922 randomised patients in high-quality RCT's, providing “the most robust evidence to date on acupuncture for chronic pain” (MacPherson et al., 2017).

They found that, for all of the above conditions, 50% of the patients who received acupuncture experienced a significant reduction in pain, compared to 30% of the patients who received other treatments such as medication or physiotherapy, or exercise and advice. Acupuncture was more than placebo and it performed significantly better than both sham acupuncture and standard medical care.

50% of those who had acupuncture saw a reduction in pain of 50% or more

Acupuncture as reasonable referral option for chronic pain

The authors of the study used the findings as a foundation for considering acupuncture's potential benefits as a health-care referral option. They were also presenting the most valuable evidence on clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness to policy-makers and commissioners by comparing acupuncture to other 'competing' medical or psychological therapies in an unbiased way (MacPherson et al., 2017).

According to the authors “acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option” (MacPherson et al., 2017).


-Hopton, A.K., Curnoe, S., Kanaan, M. and MacPherson, H., 2012. Acupuncture in practice: mapping the providers, the patients and the settings in a national cross-sectional survey. BMJ open, 2(1), p.e000456.

-MacPherson, H., Vickers, A., Bland, J.M., Torgerson, D.J., Corbett, M.S., Spackman, E., Saramago Goncalves, P.R., Woods, B.S., Weatherly, H.L.A., Sculpher, M.J. and Manca, A., 2017. Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Programme Grants for Applied Research, pp.1-342.

-Vickers, A.J., Cronin, A.M., Maschino, A.C., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N.E., Sherman, K.J., Witt, C.M., Linde, K. and Acupuncture Trialists' Collaboration, F.T., 2012. Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Archives of internal medicine, 172(19), pp.1444-1453.


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