There are many different varieties of the practice of acupuncture, both in the Orient and in the West. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) usually combines acupuncture with Chinese herbs. Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture has special challenges. These include the diversity of approaches, the practice of individualizing treatment for each patient, differing skill levels between practitioners, and difficulty separating out the effects of acupuncture from placebo effects.
In a recent study, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search of well-designed clinical trials evaluating the effects of acupuncture on four different types of chronic pain, including back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain. Twenty-nine studies evaluating 17,922 patients were ultimately identified for inclusion.
The researchers found that when compared to sham acupuncture or no acupuncture treatment, true acupuncture was significantly more effective in reducing all four types of chronic pain. Pain scores were significantly reduced for all pain types when true acupuncture was compared to sham acupuncture and the effect sizes were greater when true acupuncture was compared to no acupuncture treatment at all. The authors noted that the significant differences between sham and true acupuncture indicate that the effects of acupuncture may be more than a suggested placebo effect.
The authors concluded that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for chronic pain. Additional research is warranted.
In addition to acupuncture, there is evidence that suggests acupressure using aromatic essential oils (lavender) may reduce pain intensity, stiffness and stress in patients with neck pain for up to one month.
For more information about integrative therapies for chronic pain, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.
For more information about acupuncture, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.