Acupuncture/ pressurePain

Acupuncture as effective long-term pain control

A 2003 technology assessment by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded, “The currently available evidence is insufficient to determine whether acupuncture has a specific beneficial effect in osteoarthritis.”

Since then, two studies reported benefits with acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. In the first study, 570 patients were treated for 26 weeks. Those treated with true acupuncture experienced significantly greater improvement as measured by the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain and function scores at 8 weeks and 26 weeks vs. those treated with sham acupuncture.

In the second study, 294 patients were assigned to 8 weeks of acupuncture, minimal acupuncture (superficial needling at non-acupuncture points), or an education control group. Pain and joint function measured by WOMAC improved significantly with acupuncture vs. the other treatments at the end of 8 weeks. However, the benefits decreased over time, with no difference between groups at 52 weeks.

Thus, the quandary. Chronic acupuncture treatments are expensive. How do we maintain the benefit of acupuncture over the long term? Is it possible that acupuncture can be self-administered successfully? The results of a retrospective audit of 52 patients who had a positive response to acupuncture previously found that 8 out of 10 patients continued to have pain reduction with self-acupuncture. Quality of life was also improved, and no serious adverse effects were reported.

The investigators concluded that self-acupuncture has considerable potential to reduce clinic waiting lists and appointment times for patients.

One would anticipate cost savings as well.

7/3/06 22:22 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.