Acupuncture/ pressureSpinal Cord

Things to contemplate when reviewing acupuncture studies

acupuncture circleResearchers from Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Eastern Center for Complementary Medicine, in California reviewed the literature on pediatric acupuncture research.

You can review the details of their findings here. But more interesting are their insights into the research process and clinical practice.

Considerations when reviewing acupuncture research.

  • Acupuncture demonstrates relative promise in the management of pediatric pain, migraines, infant distress, enuresis (bed wetting), constipation, allergies, neurologic disability, laryngospasm (involuntary blockage of the flow of air into the lungs), and post-operative vomiting.
  • However, some inconsistent findings suggest the need for more research.
    • No surprise there.

Western vs Traditional Chinese Medicine

  • In Western Medicine, treatment regimens tend to be standardized.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine follows an individualized approach to patient care.
    • Therefore, the practice of acupuncture is largely dictated by the specialization of the practitioner and the needs of the patient.
  • Most acupuncture literature is generated in adults in China under a more lenient study designs.
    • Results tend to be descriptive (as opposed to objective) in nature.
  • Future acupuncture research should be based on rigorous study design and comparison with a randomized control group (wait list, standard care, alternative treatment, or sham acupuncture).


  • Serious consequences are rare (others disagree).
  • Adverse effects include:
    • Direct injury to the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots
    • Indirect injury by needle fragments
    • Bleeding in 15% of treatments
    • Faintness, sweating, and fatigue
    • Local skin infections after acupuncture in 4% of cases
    • Several case reports suggest that hepatitis, HIV, and sub acute bacterial endocarditis may develop after acupuncture.
    • Infection due to improper handling of needles.

Caution, the side effects listed above are not meant to suggest their relative frequency.
11/29/09 19:29 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.