Researchers from the University of York, in the UK say it’s time to move on from asking if acupuncture is more effective than placebo.
First, the details.
They reviewed the evidence supporting acupuncture for the most commonly occurring forms of chronic pain (back, knee, and head).
8 systematic reviews with meta-analyses of pooled data were included.
And, the results.
Acupuncture was significantly better than sham for back pain, knee pain, and headache.
Longer-term outcomes (6 to12 months)
Acupuncture was significantly more effective for knee pain and tension-type headache but inconsistent for back pain (one positive and one inconclusive study).
In general, the differences between treatments were relatively small.
The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “The accumulating evidence from recent reviews suggests that acupuncture is more than a placebo for commonly occurring chronic pain conditions.”
They continue, “If this conclusion is correct, then we ask the question: is it now time to shift research priorities away from asking placebo-related questions and shift toward asking more practical questions about whether the overall benefit is clinically meaningful and cost-effective?”
At least 2 other studies from the same university suggest, “For persistent non-specific low back pain, acupuncture appears to provide a modest benefit to health, at a relatively minor extra cost to the UK healthcare system.”
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.