Washington: Acupuncture, the practice of inserting and stimulating needles at specific points on the body for chronic pain, may be better than no acupuncture or sham acupuncture, a study has claimed.
The individual patient data meta-analyses conducted by Andrew J. Vickers, D.Phil., of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and colleagues, used data from previously published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with a total of 17,922 patients from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Sweden.
Researchers sought to determine the effect size of acupuncture for some chronic pain conditions.
“We found acupuncture to be superior to both no-acupuncture control and sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain,” the authors said.
“Although the data indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo, the differences between true and sham acupuncture are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to therapeutic effects,” they said.
Sham acupuncture in the trials included needles inserted superficially, devices with needles that retracted into the handle rather than penetrating the skin, and non-needle approaches such as deactivated electrical stimulation or detuned laser, according to the study.
The authors report that patients receiving acupuncture had less pain than those on sham controls for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and chronic headaches, respectively.
“Our results from individual patient data meta-analyses of nearly 18,000 randomized patients in high-quality RCTs provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain,” the authors added.
The study is published in the journal Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.