One of the most ancient alternative therapies is acupuncture. There is a deep reservoir of studies now that have looked into its effects, and what conditions it might treat. One area that has always been up and down is pain relief. Can it actually work? A new review of the literature has dug up the best evidence yet that acupuncture can be the tool you need to escape the pain.
At the end of the day, you need to do what’s right for you, and spend your money in the right places. If people who seek acupuncture know they are seeking something that works, this sure is a good feeling.
Researchers performed an analysis of patient data from 29 different trials, and published it in the “Archives of Internal Medicine.” It essentially found that real acupuncture beats “sham” acupuncture or no acupuncture in treating some chronic pain.
Now, the needle-based treatment is widely used for chronic pain, as patients experiencing this often seek something that will fix them. But controversy has always dogged acupuncture here, and questions have remained about its value. The new study analyzed data on nearly 18,000 patients in five countries (including the U.S.). That means it is pretty big and widespread. They wanted to determine the effects of acupuncture on some chronic pain conditions.
They found the real thing superior to not getting acupuncture, and to fake acupuncture (which is essentially putting needles in incorrect locations). The data showed that acupuncture is better than placebo. And it showed that the differences between true and sham acupuncture are actually kind of modest. This means certain factors other than the placement of needles may be delivering therapeutic effects.
Sham acupuncture included needles inserted superficially, devices with needles that retracted into the handle rather than penetrating the skin, and non-needle approaches.
The conditions for which real acupuncture led to real pain relief were: back pain; neck pain; osteoarthritis; and chronic headaches. These were high-quality studies that delivered the “most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain.”