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

Prof. Ernst and colleagues reviewed the evidence.

First, the details.

  • 57 systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria.
  • 4 were of excellent quality.

And, the results.

  • Unanimously positive conclusions from more than one high-quality systematic review existed only for neck pain.
  • 95 cases of severe adverse effects including 5 fatalities were included.
  • Pneumothorax (collection of air between the lung and chest wall) and infections were the most frequently reported side effects.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Numerous reviews have produced little convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain. Serious adverse events, including deaths, continue to be reported.”

This is a more negative conclusion than Prof. Ernst published several months ago on the same topic.

7/27/11 21:08 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.