Acupuncture/ pressurePainPain-NeckProf. Ernst

Punching holes in the claims for acupuncture

Acupuncture is commonly used for pain control, but there are doubts about its effectiveness and safety.

Prof. Ernst and colleagues are critical of acupuncture as a treatment of pain. Here, they summarize reports of serious adverse effects published since 2000.

First, the details.

  • 57 reviews were included.
  • 4 were of excellent design quality.

And, the results.

  • Many contradictions and caveats emerged.
  • Unanimously positive conclusions from more than 1 high-quality systematic review existed only for neck pain.
  • 95 cases of severe adverse effects including 5 fatalities were reported.
  • Pneumothorax and infections were the most frequently reported adverse effects.
    • Pneumothorax is a buildup of air that places pressure on the lung so it can’t expand as much as normal.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Numerous systematic reviews have generated little truly convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain. Serious adverse effects continue to be reported.”

10/1/11 22:44 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.