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A systematic review on Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

Large scale review article from the available literature on acupuncture clinical trial examined 29 relevant and reliable studies worldwide and found that acupuncture is effective in treating chronic pain and it has a substantial effect on pain reduction in patients.

There is also a significant difference between the acupuncture group and the placebo and control groups.

Chronic and acute pain has become a major disease among the entire population. Between 60-80 percent will suffer or are suffering from a variety of pains, such as neuropathic pain as a result of nerve damage, nociceptive pain as a result of damage to the various tissues, epigastric pain as a result of damage to the digestive system, etc.

Conventional medicine offers those suffering from pain diagnosis and treatment in pain clinics, while many studies are done to diagnose the phenomenon and attempt to find a solution. Acupuncture treatments have been widely used for many centuries, and for a great number and variety of diseases. Hundreds of researches have been performed to examine the effect of acupuncture on pain reduction, the main conclusion of the researchers being – acupuncture is very significant in the reduction of pain!

The effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain:

A meta-analysis (statistical review of various studies) conducted by several epidemiological centers, and led by the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine Journal (1).

The review was done in order to determine the magnitude of the effect of acupuncture in 4 chronic pain centers: neck and lower back, headaches, shoulder pain and osteoarthritis of the knee.

The meta-analysis was performed in three main stages:

In the first phase, data was collected from studies (randomized and controlled) that examined the effect of acupuncture on chronic pain. These studies were collected from the United States, England, Germany, Spain, and Sweden. In the second and third stages, the reliability of these studies was tested and the data was evaluated. At the end of the data collection, out of 955 studies, 29 were found to be suitable and reliable studies, with a total of 17,922 patients, while the rest of the studies did not meet the standardization of accepted research conditions.

3 main groups were examined:

  1. The intervention group that was treated with acupuncture.
  2. The placebo group, which was divided into 3:
    a) Patients in whom superficial acupuncture was performed without skin insertion.
    b) Patients in whom acupuncture was performed with a dummy applicator which creates a feeling of insertion, but prevents the insertion of the needle.
    c) A group that was treated with electro stimulation (an electrical device that causes electrical simulations) but either not tuned or neutralized.
  3. A control group – a group that was not treated with acupuncture, but received physiotherapy and painkillers.

Criteria for the inclusion of study participants to be include for the meta analysis:

  1. Chronic pain must appear in the neck, lower back, shoulder, head or knee.
  2. Each patient was subjected to a comprehensive questioning.
  3. Chronic pain was determined only if the patient had suffered from it for 4 weeks or more.
  4. The effectiveness of the treatment was tested 4 weeks from the beginning of treatment.

the results showed that true acupuncture is superior both to placebo acupuncture and to the control group , and this for each of the pain areas. In all cases the observed significance level is P <0.001.
(The smaller the P VALUE, the more likely the researcher is right and the research hypothesis is correct). The acupuncture group felt significant pain relief.

Moreover, the pain index from 0-100 recorded another superiority for the acupuncture group, with the pain index for the acupuncture group falling from an average of 60 to 30 points, while the placebo group fell to 35 and the control group to 43.

The researchers’ conclusions: Acupuncture is effective in treating chronic pain and its effect on reducing pain in patients is significant. There is also a significant difference between the acupuncture group and the placebo and the control groups, and it can be said unequivocally that acupuncture helps far beyond the placebo effect!

Are you interested in knowing more about Acupuncture and pain relief ?

Read the UK’S National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline (NG193), which recommend Acupuncture as an effective option in managing chronic pain.

Read the BBC news article about NICE guideline


1. Andrew J. Vickers, DPhil; Angel M. Cronin, MS; Alexandra C. Maschino, BS; George Lewith, MD;

Hugh MacPherson, PhD; Nadine E. Foster, DPhil; Karen J. Sherman, PhD; Claudia M. Witt, MD;

Klaus Linde, MD. Arch Intern Med. September 10, 2012



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