Battlefield Acupuncture

Important to know: Chronic health conditions should be addressed under direct medical supervision of your GP or consultant, and acupuncture would be an adjunct or complement to usual care – we advise that you let you doctor know when you use this approach.

Battlefield acupuncture was developed with the intention to be used in military battlefields as well as in emergency situations, as a protocol for the rapid relief of pain. Consisting of a set of auricular acupuncture points (on the ear), the technique is tailored to the type and location of the pain, making it potentially applicable to many types of pain. 

Case Study and Video for Trauma/PTSD

Acupuncturists (MBAcC) Rachel Peckham and Samina Haider set up an acupuncture NADA group in a Mosque in London in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, using the NADA protocol for trauma application, there is a video about this from the British Acupuncture Council here that may be of interest, and which shows the NADA protocol in action, and patients talking about it and their experiences of it: BAcC auricular (NADA) video Rachel talks about the general uses of this, background and the idea which came from the use of this in the aftermath of 9/11 in America.

Research and Resources on Battlefield Acupuncture:

A scholarly search of the available research papers on the terms “acupuncture” + “battlefield” yields over 3150 papers, and narrowing this to “RCT” to identify Randomised Controlled Trials, gives over 139 results; of which 48% have been carried out since 2017 (Google Scholar). This suggests that acupuncture is being used currently in this area, leading to a small body of research being carried out so far (it is a recent development and area of practise). However the pace of research is increasing with nearly 50% of the research ever done, having happened in the last 4 years, showing promise for future studies and systematic reviews regarding examining its potential role.

Interpreting the research:

When reading health research, it is important to know that Systematic Reviews or Meta Analyses of a large number of high-quality research studies are the very best way to be able to say to what extent a given treatment can address a condition, symptom, or set of symptoms.  The next best level of evidence is the individual Randomised Controlled Study (RCT) which uses a systematic technique to compare two or more groups of patients receiving different treatments (or a treatment against a “control”, or no treatment).  In acupuncture trials, the nature of the control group is of particular interest as it is hard to blind a patient to whether they are having a needle inserted or not, and even more challenging to blind the researcher/team to this.

The means and quality of how research is carried out varies considerably from country to country, and in terms of how an intervention is compared to another intervention (or a control).  Of note is the fact that “sham” acupuncture (where needles are placed in apparently inert locations rather than traditional acupuncture points) is not really an inert process as it has physiological effects, so that comparing sham and “true acupuncture” may therefore not give a clear picture alone; but and form a part of a research body where acupuncture versus no treatment, vs conventional treatment or vs a different approach/modality also form part of the evidence base.

The n= figure (where quoted in research) tells you how many people were participants in the study, and usually the larger a study (when it is of good quality and design), the more likely it is to be reliable and applicable to larger populations. When (statistical) “significance” is discussed in view of studies it has a very particular meaning – it is the confidence in the data (using statistical tests) that tells us how likely a result could have just come about by chance. The lower the possibility of a chance result, the more likely it is due to the intervention in the experiment. When you are reading a trial/study, the “p” is the number telling us of significance, and this must be under 5% (or p less than 0.05) to mean we can say it is a (statistically) “significant” result.

The Research:

A 2017 systematic review of 6 trials (Jan et al, 2017; n=458) found that “ear acupuncture, either as stand-alone or as-an-adjunct technique, significantly reduced pain scores and has potential benefits for use in the ED [emergency department]”, although study numbers were limited at the time more research had since been carried out, so we look forward to more sysyematic reviews as this develops..

This style of acupuncture has been found effective as an adjunct for low back pain in a USA ED setting (Emergency Dept., A&E equivalent, with a statistically significant benefit over usual care alone (Fox et al, 2018; n=30; p=0.04). Tsai et al, (2016) described 4 cases in which emergency physicians with brief training in the protocol treated patients with acute pain when opioid-based painkillers were unsuitable.

Elsewhere, battlefield acupuncture is used the US Department of Defense’s medical facilities for ex-military personnel for trauma related issues including PTSD (Walker et al, 2016);

Recently, a systematic review protocol was put forward (Zhang et al, 2020) for application of battlefield acupuncture protocol to migraine; it will be interesting to see the outcome here.

Regarding Your Individual Condition and Symptoms:

There are many painful conditions for which patients seek out acupuncture to address their symptoms. We have dedicated pages for arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel, facial (TMJ) pain, shoulder and frozen shoulder, headache, migraine, kidney stones, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, sciatica, neuropathic (nerve) pain, rheumatoid arthritis, tennis and golfer’s elbow, neck pain, and pelvic pain each of which give references and further resources to evidence based factsheets and may be of use.

Whilst the scientific studies are of great interest to researchers and acupuncturists in terms of comparing protocols, for the patient not versed in research they are less accessible, which is why when we asked “can acupuncture work for my (condition or symptom) we are not able to give a simple yes or no response.  We are able to tell you what experience we have had in our decades of experience in practise, of the types of outcomes we have seen in similar cases, and give you an idea of our level of experience and knowledge in that area, and how this could relate to your own individual situation.  For this, we recommend booking a free telephone consultation where we can answer any questions you have and give a realistic appraisal of what acupuncture may be able to provide.

References:

Fox, L.M., Murakami, M., Danesh, H. and Manini, A.F., 2018. Battlefield acupuncture to treat low back pain in the emergency department. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 36(6), pp.1045-1048.

Guthrie, R.M. and Chorba, R., 2016. Physical Therapy Treatment Of Chronic Neck Pain A Discussion And Case Study: Using Dry Needling And Battlefield Acupuncture. Journal of special operations medicine: a peer reviewed journal for SOF medical professionals, 16(1), pp.1-5.

Jan, A.L., Aldridge, E.S., Rogers, I.R., Visser, E.J., Bulsara, M.K. and Niemtzow, R.C., 2017. Does ear acupuncture have a role for pain relief in the emergency setting? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medical acupuncture29(5), pp.276-289.

Niemtzow, R.C., 2007. Battlefield acupuncture. Medical Acupuncture, 19(4), pp.225-228.

Tsai, S.L., Fox, L.M., Murakami, M. and Tsung, J.W., 2016. Auricular acupuncture in emergency department treatment of acute pain. Annals of emergency medicine, 68(5), pp.583-585.

Walker, P.H., Pock, A., Ling, C.G., Kwon, K.N. and Vaughan, M., 2016. Battlefield acupuncture: opening the door for acupuncture in Department of Defense/Veteran’s Administration health care. Nursing outlook, 64(5), pp.491-498.

Zhang, F., Shen, Y., Fu, H., Zhou, H. and Wang, C., 2020. Auricular acupuncture for migraine: a systematic review protocol. Medicine99(5).

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Chronic Pain – Condition Resources

See also: Our in-depth blog about the NICE guidelines regarding recommendation of acupuncture for Chronic Pain, which is an evidence based piece informing NHS practise.

Important to know: Chronic health conditions should be addressed under direct medical supervision of your GP or consultant, acupuncture would be an adjunct or complement to usual care – we advise that you let you doctor know when you use this approach.

There are many painful conditions for which patients seek acupuncture to address their symptoms. We have dedicated pages for arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel, facial (TMJ) pain, shoulder and frozen shoulder, headache, migraine, kidney stones, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, sciatica, neuropathic (nerve) pain, rheumatoid arthritis, tennis and golfer’s elbow, neck pain, and pelvic pain each of which give references and further resources to evidence based factsheets and may be of use.

A scholarly search of the available research papers on the terms “acupuncture” + “chronic pain” yields over 52,000 papers, and narrowing this to “RCT” to identify Randomised Controlled Trials, gives over 7,000 results; of which 36% have been carried out since 2017 (Google Scholar). This suggests that acupuncture is being used traditionally and currently in this area, research has been carried out, the pace of which is increasing in recent years, therefore indicating that it merits of scientific appraisal and consideration in the field.

Interpreting the research:

When reading health research, it is important to know that Systematic Reviews or Meta Analyses of a large number of high-quality research studies are the very best way to be able to say to what extent a given treatment can address a condition, symptom, or set of symptoms.  The next best level of evidence is the individual Randomised Controlled Study (RCT) which uses a systematic technique to compare two or more groups of patients receiving different treatments (or a treatment against a “control”, or no treatment).  In acupuncture trials, the nature of the control group is of particular interest as it is hard to blind a patient to whether they are having a needle inserted or not, and even more challenging to blind the researcher/team to this.

The means and quality of how research is carried out varies considerably from country to country, and in terms of how an intervention is compared to another intervention (or a control).  Of note is the fact that “sham” acupuncture (where needles are placed in apparently inert locations rather than traditional acupuncture points) is not really an inert process as it has physiological effects, so that comparing sham and “true acupuncture” may therefore not give a clear picture alone; but and form a part of a research body where acupuncture versus no treatment, vs conventional treatment or vs a different approach/modality also form part of the evidence base.

The n= figure (where quoted in research) tells you how many people were participants in the study, and usually the larger a study (when it is of good quality and design), the more likely it is to be reliable and applicable to larger populations. When (statistical) “significance” is discussed in view of studies it has a very particular meaning – it is the confidence in the data (using statistical tests) that tells us how likely a result could have just come about by chance. The lower the possibility of a chance result, the more likely it is due to the intervention in the experiment. When you are reading a trial/study, the “p” is the number telling us of significance, and this must be under 5% (or p less than 0.05) to mean we can say it is a (statistically) “significant” result.

Chronic Pain in General

“Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal, headache, and osteoarthritis pain. Treatment effects of acupuncture persist over time and cannot be explained solely in terms of placebo effects. Referral for a course of acupuncture treatment is a reasonable option for a patient with chronic pain”. (Vickers et al, 2018; large chronic pain review of high quality RCTs updating a previous meta-analysis; 39 trials, n=20827; conditions addressed chronic headache, back/neck pain and osteoarthritis)

Another recent overview (Yin et al, 2017) confirms that there is increasing evidence for acupuncture  as an effective, safe, and cost-effective intervention in chronic low back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain, as well as headaches.

NICE (NHS advisory body) Recommendation:

The NHS body in charge of which treatments should be used in particular conditions recommends acupuncture for chronic pain:  The NICE Scenario Management guidelines (2021) for chronic pain state: “consider a course of acupuncture or dry needling, within a traditional Chinese or Western acupuncture system”

Overall, a large systematic review has found acupuncture a cost effective intervention for several painful conditions (Ambrósio et al, 2012).

Mechanisms of Action on Pain:

Acupuncture studies have shown it can: provide pain relief by stimulating nerves in body tissues and leading to endorphin release (natural painkilling substances), as well as downregulating the brain and nervous system’s reaction to stress and pain (Zhao 2008; Zijlstra et al, 2003; Pomeranz, 1987).

Acupuncture has been shown in animal models to promote the release of factors that involved in the reduction of inflammation (vascular and immunomodulatory factors – (Kim et al, 2008; Kavoussi and Ross, 2007 [review article]; Zijlstra et al, 2003), and also to affect levels of serotonin (in an animal model), and other peptides in the brain and nervous system and modulate blood flow in the brain and elsewhere in the body, in humans (Zhong and Li, 2007; Shi et al, 2010).

Regarding Your Individual Condition and Symptoms:

Whilst the scientific studies are of great interest to researchers and acupuncturists in terms of comparing protocols, for the patient not versed in research they are less accessible, which is why when we asked “can acupuncture work for my (condition or symptom) we are not able to give a simple yes or no response.  We are able to tell you what experience we have had in our decades of experience in practise, of the types of outcomes we have seen in similar cases, and give you an idea of our level of experience and knowledge in that area, and how this could relate to your own individual situation.  For this, we recommend booking a free telephone consultation where we can answer any questions you have and give a realistic appraisal of what acupuncture may be able to provide.

Resources:

British Acupuncture Council evidence based factsheet about Chronic Pain including specific research, trials and mechanisms of action for acupuncture in this condition.

NICE Guidelines (2021) Chronic pain (primary and secondary) in over 16s: assessment of all chronic pain and management of chronic primary pain
NICE guideline
[NG193]Published: 07 April 2021

BAcC Osteoarthritis Factsheet

BAcC Rheumatoid Arthritis Factsheet

BAcC Stress Factsheet

References:

Chronic Pain in General References:

Vickers, A.J., Vertosick, E.A., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N.E., Sherman, K.J., Irnich, D., Witt, C.M., Linde, K. and Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, 2018. Acupuncture for chronic pain: update of an individual patient data meta-analysis. The Journal of Pain, 19(5), pp.455-474.

Birch, S., Lee, M.S., Alraek, T. and Kim, T.H., 2018. Overview of treatment guidelines and clinical practical guidelines that recommend the use of acupuncture: a bibliometric analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine24(8), pp.752-769.

NICE 2021 Chronic pain: Scenario: Management Last revised in April 2021

Yin, C., Buchheit, T.E. and Park, J.J., 2017. Acupuncture for chronic pain: an update and critical overview. Current opinion in anaesthesiology30(5), pp.583-592.

Mechanism of Action References:

Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther. 2007 Sep;6(3):251-7.

Kim HW, Uh DK, Yoon SY et al. Low-frequency electroacupuncture suppresses carrageenan-induced paw inflammation in mice via sympathetic post-ganglionic neurons, while high-frequency EA suppression is mediated by the sympathoadrenal medullary axis. Brain Res Bull. 2008 Mar 28;75(5):698-705.

Pomeranz B. Scientific basis of acupuncture. In: Stux G, Pomeranz B, eds. Acupuncture Textbook and Atlas. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag; 1987:1-18.

Shi H, Li JH, Ji CF, Shang HY, Qiu EC et al.[Effect of electroacupuncture on cortical spreading depression and plasma CGRP and substance P contents in migraine rats]. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2010 Feb;35(1):17-21.

Zhao ZQ. Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Prog Neurobiol. 2008 Aug;85(4):355-75.

Zhong G.-W. Li W. Effects of acupuncture on 5-hydroxytryptamine1F and inducible nitricoxide synthase gene expression in the brain of migraine rats. Journal of Clinical Rehabilitative Tissue Engineering Research. 2007;11(29)(pp 5761-5764)

Zijlstra FJ, van den Berg-de Lange I, Huygen FJ, Klein J. Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. Mediators Inflamm. 2003 Apr;12(2):59-69.

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Pregnancy, Breech baby, and Childbirth – Condition Resources

Important to know: Chronic health conditions should be addressed under direct medical supervision of your GP or consultant, and acupuncture would be an adjunct or complement to usual care – we advise that you let you doctor know when you use this approach.

Acupuncture is a safe and popular choice during pregnancy, our practitioners have worked with very many pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy over the years. It is important that your midwife/obstetrician is happy with this approach, and we have had many direct recommendations to us, from local midwives over the years.

There is an interesting video from the British Acupuncture Council with a patient regarding hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) and her use of acupuncture, showing a treatment and discussion with her acupuncturist: you can see it here

The BAcC has a factsheet on the research and use of acupuncture in Obstetrics, as well as one on Childbirth, and on Puerperium (post natal period) 

Acupuncture is safe in pregnancy with a qualified acupuncturist.

Research and Resources on Pregnancy and Acupuncture:

A scholarly search of the available research studies mentioning “acupuncture and pregnancy” reveals over 45,00 papers from journals, of these “RCT” narrows down to 5,280 papers. Of the RCT’s ever published in this area, 38% have been published in the last 4 years (since 2017). A number of systematic reviews have been done for acupuncture in particular issues of pregnancy (see below).  From this abundance of research, we can deduce that acupuncture is employed, traditionally and currently in this area; widely scientifically researched, and that the pace at which the research is being carried is increasing – leading us to understand this is an area that has been deemed worthy of scientific appraisal and consideration.  

Interpreting the research:

When reading health research, it is important to know that Systematic Reviews or Meta Analyses of a large number of high-quality research studies are the very best way to be able to say to what extent a given treatment can address a condition, symptom, or set of symptoms.  The next best level of evidence is the individual Randomised Controlled Study (RCT) which uses a systematic technique to compare two or more groups of patients receiving different treatments (or a treatment against a “control”, or no treatment).  In acupuncture trials, the nature of the control group is of particular interest as it is hard to blind a patient to whether they are having a needle inserted or not, and even more challenging to blind the researcher/team to this.

The means and quality of how research is carried out varies considerably from country to country, and in terms of how an intervention is compared to another intervention (or a control).  Of note is the fact that “sham” acupuncture (where needles are placed in apparently inert locations rather than traditional acupuncture points) is not really an inert process as it has physiological effects, so that comparing sham and “true acupuncture” may therefore not give a clear picture alone; but and form a part of a research body where acupuncture versus no treatment, vs conventional treatment or vs a different approach/modality also form part of the evidence base.

The n= figure (where quoted in research) tells you how many people were participants in the study, and usually the larger a study (when it is of good quality and design), the more likely it is to be reliable and applicable to larger populations. When (statistical) “significance” is discussed in view of studies it has a very particular meaning – it is the confidence in the data (using statistical tests) that tells us how likely a result could have just come about by chance. The lower the possibility of a chance result, the more likely it is due to the intervention in the experiment. When you are reading a trial/study, the “p” is the number telling us of significance, and this must be under 5% (or p less than 0.05) to mean we can say it is a (statistically) “significant” result.

Breech Presentation

A common request and referral from midwives is regarding the use of moxibustion to the point Bl67, which is a traditional indication for the Breech presentation of a baby. There have been over 600 number of scientific papers in this area as seen in a scholarly search, and a number of systematic reviews in a scholarly search, showing this as an area of frequent use, as well as scientific interest. Systematic reviews that have been carried out on this are: Liao et al, (2021); Vas et al, (2009); Li et al, (2009); Van den Berg et al, (2008); Mailan et al (2009); Lee at al, (2010); Zhang et al, (2013). Full references are below, to enable to you find and access the original articles.

The most recent of these systematic reviews, carried out by Taiwanese researchers (Liao et al, 2021) looked at 16 RCT’s and n=2555, appraised the studies in terms of bias risk as well as outcome, excluding studies that were not of sufficient quality, 8 studies from China were included, and the rest from European countries. Overall they found that moxibustion had merit in this field, but that more RCT’s are needed to establish the magnitude of the effect. A systematic review found moxibustion as used in this field to be safe when carried out by a trained professional (Xu et al, 2014;

It is vital that your obstetrician and midwife are aware before you undertake acupuncture (or any complementary therapy) in pregnancy.

Induction of Labour

This is an area for which pregnant women sometimes look to information about acupuncture when they are overdue their expected deliver date, usually because they have heard mention of it from a midwife, or had a personal recommendation for someone they know.

It is vital that your obstetrician and midwife are aware before you undertake acupuncture (or any complementary therapy) in pregnancy.

Studies have been done regarding traditional acupuncture protocols for this, (a scholarly search reveals over 930 articles mentioning “acupuncture” + “labour induction” OR “labor induction”, 30% of these have been carried out since 2017.

A Cochrane systematic review of 22 trials (Smith et al, 2017), concluded that acupuncture showed some benefit in improving cervical maturity, but insufficient evidence as to whether it reduced caesarean rate, meaning more high-quality RCT trials are needed. In a more recent systematic review, Siregar et al (2020, 9 articles, n=1656) reached a similar conclusion.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Morning Sickness)

Studies have been done regarding traditional acupuncture protocols for this, (a scholarly search reveals over 2,200 articles mentioning “acupuncture” + “hyperemesis gravidarum”, 207 show as “RCT” and 24% of these have been carried out since 2017.

In 1996, researcher Andrew Vickers had published a review article entitled “Can Acupuncture have Specific Effects on Health? A Systematic Review of Acupuncture Antiemesis Trials” (Vickers, 1996), because the traditional anti-sickness point in acupuncture theory was PC6, he examined 33 trials of the effect of this in nausea caused by pregnancy as well as chemotherapy and post-surgery, with the research pointing to PC6 having an anti nausea effect. Of interest to note is that the car sickness wristbands that have been available to buy in chemists for a couple of decades, are intended to press upon this exact acupuncture /acupressure points, their idea being drawn from traditional acupuncture.

Systematic reviews in this area include Sridharan and Sivaramakrishnan (2020; 20 studies) which saw some benefit for the acupuncture intervention, albeit that the quality of the studies was low and warranted more trials in future; Van den Heuvel et al ‘s systematic review (2015, 29 trials, n=3519) had reached a similar conclusion. Li et al, 2017 (11 studies) also concurred, noting in addition the possible publication bias (i.e. researchers having carried out a successful study may be more likely to publish it/have it accepted for publication than are those whose study shows no effects in some spheres).

Yan et al recently (2020) put forward a protocol for a systematic review in this area, so this is currently awaited.

Mechanism of action in nausea and vomiting: an animal model: Scallan et al (2016) investigated point PC6 on 81 healthy dogs who had drug-induces nausea and vomiting, finding that use of the point reduces vomiting. Notably in animals the placebo effect is somewhat overcome by a lack of the animal anticipating an acupuncture intervention to be of assistance.

Dyspepsia (Indigestion, Heartburn)

We have a separate page for this condition – Dyspepsia – which is common in pregnancy

Low Back Pain

We have a separate page for this condition – Low Back Pain – which is common in pregnancy

Post Caesarean Pain

We have a separate page for this condition – Post Operative Pain – which is common in pregnancy

Mental Health, Anxiety, Depression

We have separate pages for these conditions – AnxietyDepressionMental HealthStress and a blog about mental health

Regarding Your Individual Condition and Symptoms:

Whilst the scientific studies are of great interest to researchers and acupuncturists in terms of comparing protocols, for the patient not versed in research they are less accessible, which is why when we asked “can acupuncture work for my (condition or symptom) we are not able to give a simple yes or no response.  We are able to tell you what experience we have had in our decades of experience in practise, of the types of outcomes we have seen in similar cases, and give you an idea of our level of experience and knowledge in that area, and how this could relate to your own individual situation.  For this, we recommend booking a free telephone consultation where we can answer any questions you have and give a realistic appraisal of what acupuncture may be able to provide.

See our Fertility and Pregnancy page for full details on the studies and mechanisms of the above.

Resources:

The British Acupuncture Council has several relevant evidence based factsheets about Women’s Health, including specific research, trials and mechanisms of action for acupuncture in these conditions.

BAcC Childbirth and acupuncture factsheet

BAcC Obstetrics (pregnancy and childbirth) and acupuncture factsheet

BAcC Puerperium (postnatal / postpartum) acupuncture factsheet

Our own page on Fertility, Pregnancy and Acupuncture

The British Acupuncture Council also has a review paper on Gynaecology and acupuncture: The evidence for effectiveness

Bibliography:

Khorram, N.M.; S. Horton, V. Sahakian The Effect of Acupuncture on Outcome of in Vitro Fertilization Fertility and Sterility, Vol. 84, S364 Published in issue: September 2005

Li, Xun, Jun Hu, Xiaoyi Wang, Huirui Zhang, and Jianping Liu. Moxibustion and other acupuncture point stimulation methods to treat breech presentation: a systematic review of clinical trials. Chin Med 2009;4:4.

LI, Y., WANG, Y., LI, C. and ZHANG, Z., 2017. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Domestic Acupuncture for Treatment of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Journal of Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, p.09.

Lee, M.S., Kang, J.W. and Ernst, E., 2010. Does moxibustion work? An overview of systematic reviews. BMC Research Notes3(1), pp.1-5.

Liao, J.A., Shao, S.C., Chang, C.T., Chai, P.Y.C., Owang, K.L., Huang, T.H., Yang, C.H., Lee, T.J. and Chen, Y.C., 2021, June. Correction of Breech Presentation with Moxibustion and Acupuncture: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. In Healthcare (Vol. 9, No. 6, p. 619). Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

Lim, Chi Eung Danforn; Jenny Wilkinson, WS Felix Wong, Nga Chong Lisa Cheng Effect of Acupuncture on Induction of Labor Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.)  11/2009; 15(11):1209-14.

Mailan, L.I.U., Lei, L.A.N., Yong, T.A.N.G. and Fanrong, L.I.A.N.G., 2009. Acupuncture and moxibustion for breech presentation: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine9(8), pp.840-843.

Manber, Rachel PhD; Schnyer, Rosa N. DAOM, LAc; Lyell, Deirdre MD; Chambers, Andrea S. PhD; Caughey, Aaron B. MD, PhD; Druzin, Maurice MD; Carlyle, Erin MS; Celio, Christine MS; Gress, Jenna L. BA; Huang, Mary I. MS; Kalista, Tasha MA; Martin-Okada, Robin BS; Allen, John J. B. PhD Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. ObstetGynecol 2010;115:511-20

Mozurkewich, E.L., Chilimigras, J.L., Berman, D.R., Perni, U.C., Romero, V.C., King, V.J. and Keeton, K.L., 2011. Methods of induction of labour: a systematic review. BMC pregnancy and childbirth11(1), pp.1-19.

Scallan, E.M. and Simon, B.T., 2016. The effects of acupuncture point Pericardium 6 on hydromorphone-induced nausea and vomiting in healthy dogs. Veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia43(5), pp.495-501.

Siregar, E., Herawati, L., Runjati, R. and Erisna, M., 2020. The Effects of Acupressure and Acupuncture as Natural Induction Methods for Spontaneous Labor: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Nursing and Health Services (IJNHS)3(6), pp.743-753.

Smith, C; Crowther, C and Beilby, J (2002) Acupuncture To Treat Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy: A Randomized Controlled Trial Birth Volume 29 Issue 1, Pages 1-9

Smith, C.A., Armour, M. and Dahlen, H.G., 2017. Acupuncture or acupressure for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (10).

Sridharan, K. and Sivaramakrishnan, G., 2020. Interventions for treating hyperemesis gravidarum: a network meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine33(8), pp.1405-1411.

van den Berg I, Bosch JL, Jacobs B, Bouman I, Duvekot JJ, Hunink MG. Effectiveness of acupuncture-type interventions versus expectant management to correct breech presentation: a systematic review. Complement Ther Med 2008;16:92-100.) 

Van den Heuvel, E., Goossens, M., Vanderhaegen, H., Sun, H.X. and Buntinx, F., 2015. Effect of acustimulation on nausea and vomiting and on hyperemesis in pregnancy: a systematic review of Western and Chinese literature. BMC complementary and alternative medicine16(1), pp.1-18.

Vas J, Aranda JM, Nishishinya B, Mendez C, Martin MA, Pons J, Liu JP, Wang CY, Perea-Milla E. Correction of nonvertex presentation with moxibustion: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol.2009 Sep;201(3):241-59.

Vickers, A.J., 1996. Can acupuncture have specific effects on health? A systematic review of acupuncture antiemesis trials. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine89(6), pp.303-311.

Xu, Jin; MacKenzie, Ian Z.The current use of acupuncture during pregnancy and childbirth Current Opinion in Obstetrics &Gynecology. 24(2):65-71, March 2012. 

Xu, J., Deng, H. and Shen, X., 2014. Safety of moxibustion: a systematic review of case reports. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2014.

Yan, R., Zhan, J., Liu, G., Li, C., Cai, P., Chen, Y. and Cao, H., 2020. A comparison of the efficacy and safety of traditional Chinese medicine external treatment for the hyperemesis gravidarum: A protocol for systematic review and network meta-analysis. Medicine99(45).

Zhang, Q.H., Yue, J.H., Liu, M., Sun, Z.R., Sun, Q., Han, C. and Wang, D., 2013. Moxibustion for the correction of nonvertex presentation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2013.

Helen
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Arthritis – Condition Resources

Important to know: Chronic health conditions should be addressed under direct medical supervision of your GP or consultant, and acupuncture would be an adjunct or complement to usual care – we advise that you let you doctor know when you use this approach.

Acupuncture has been shown to modulate inflammatory responses in the body, as well as to reduce the activity in the areas of the brain associated with pain and stress (as seen on functional MRI brain scans in research settings).

Interpreting the research:

When reading health research, it is important to know that Systematic Reviews or Meta Analyses of a large number of high-quality research studies are the very best way to be able to say to what extent a given treatment can address a condition, symptom, or set of symptoms.  The next best level of evidence is the individual Randomised Controlled Study (RCT) which uses a systematic technique to compare two or more groups of patients receiving different treatments (or a treatment against a “control”, or no treatment).  In acupuncture trials, the nature of the control group is of particular interest as it is hard to blind a patient to whether they are having a needle inserted or not, and even more challenging to blind the researcher/team to this.

The means and quality of how research is carried out varies considerably from country to country, and in terms of how an intervention is compared to another intervention (or a control).  Of note is the fact that “sham” acupuncture (where needles are placed in apparently inert locations rather than traditional acupuncture points) is not really an inert process as it has physiological effects, so that comparing sham and “true acupuncture” may therefore not give a clear picture alone; but and form a part of a research body where acupuncture versus no treatment, vs conventional treatment or vs a different approach/modality also form part of the evidence base.

The n= figure (where quoted in research) tells you how many people were participants in the study, and usually the larger a study (when it is of good quality and design), the more likely it is to be reliable and applicable to larger populations. When (statistical) “significance” is discussed in view of studies it has a very particular meaning – it is the confidence in the data (using statistical tests) that tells us how likely a result could have just come about by chance. The lower the possibility of a chance result, the more likely it is due to the intervention in the experiment. When you are reading a trial/study, the “p” is the number telling us of significance, and this must be under 5% (or p less than 0.05) to mean we can say it is a (statistically) “significant” result.

The research:

Osteoarthritis: Since 2005, there have been over than 50 NHS publications recommending acupuncture for osteoarthritis (largely knee or hip) and many more worldwide (Birch et al 2018).

A large (n=20827) meta-analysis of 39 studies showed acupuncture to be significantly superior to usual care and to sham (non-specific acupuncture point usage), for patients with osteoarthritis and other painful conditions (all p <.001; Vickers et al, 2018).  Additionally, clear evidence was found in this meta-study that that the effects of acupuncture persisted over time.

For patients with osteoarthritis pain, acupuncture improved pain relief compared to sham at short-term and at six-month follow up. When compared to wait list controls, acupuncture showed a clinically significant improvement in short term pain relief.  A randomised controlled trail in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, showed a significant difference at three months between acupuncture and routine care (Reinhold et al, 2008; Manheimer et al, 2010).

Knee Pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 trials, showed significant benefits whereby in patients in study groups having received acupuncture, this was associated with significantly reduced chronic knee pain 12 weeks (Zhang et al, 2017).  Specifically comparing treatments including acupuncture in osteoarthritic knee pain, Corbett et al’s (2013, n=9709) systematic review and network meta-analysis found that acupuncture could be considered as one of the more effective physical treatments for alleviating osteoarthritis knee pain in the short-term: Acupuncture was ranked second out of 21 physical treatments in this study.  The team also clarified that further research is also warranted in this area, due to the quality of the research available in some treatment areas across the studies.

Acupuncture can be cost effective, according to an RCT (n=60); acupuncture was offered to patients with knee osteoarthritis who were going to be referred for orthopaedic surgery by their GP, with acupuncture a third were able to avoid surgery which also represented a cost-saving of £100,000 per year [to the NHS]” (White et al, 2016).

Hip osteoarthritis: There is less research in this area, although it is growing, a systematic review (Manheimer et al, 2018; n=413, for 6 trials) found Acupuncture beneficial as an add-on to usual GP care, with a small but significant benefit for physical quality of life.

Mechanisms of Action:

A review article (Kavoussi & Ross, 2007) suggests that the anti-inflammatory actions that have been demonstrated to be brought about by acupuncture may be mediated via activation of the vagus nerve, alongside deactivation of inflammatory macrophages and other proinflammatory cytokines.  The researchers concluded that “The use of acupuncture as an adjunct therapy to conventional medical treatment for a number of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases seems plausible and should be validated by confirming its cholinergicity”.  Other studies (Zijlstra et al, 2003) have revealed that acupuncture some of the pain modulating and anti-inflammatory effects exhibited in acupuncture may be due to the fact that it has been shown to stimulate certain substances in the body which act as vasodilators, neurotransmitters and painkillers (beta-endorphins, CGRP and substance P) and further stimulate cytokines and nitric oxide, all of which play roles in inflammatory states. 

Many mechanisms of action have been investigated in animal models as well as in humans to measure brain activity associated with pain and the levels of biomarkers associated with inflammation.

You may also find this useful: our Rheumatoid Arthritis page

Resources

British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) Osteoarthritis Factsheet

BAcC Rheumatoid Arthritis Factsheet

References:

Birch, S., Lee, M.S., Alraek, T. and Kim, T.H., 2018. Overview of treatment guidelines and clinical practical guidelines that recommend the use of acupuncture: a bibliometric analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(8), pp.752-769.

Corbett, M.S., Rice, S.J.C., Madurasinghe, V., Slack, R., Fayter, D.A., Harden, M., Sutton, A.J., Macpherson, H. and Woolacott, N.F., 2013. Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis and cartilage, 21(9), pp.1290-1298.

Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther 2007;  6:  251-7.

Manheimer E, Cheng K, Linde K, Lao L, Yoo J, Wieland S, et al. Acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1.

Manheimer, E., Cheng, K., Wieland, L.S., Shen, X., Lao, L., Guo, M. and Berman, B.M., 2018. Acupuncture for hip osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (5).

Reinhold T, Witt CM, Jena S, Brinkhaus B, Willich SN. Quality of life and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture treatment in patients with osteoarthritis pain. Eur J Health Econ 2008;9(3):209-19.

Vickers, A.J., Vertosick, E.A., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N.E., Sherman, K.J., Irnich, D., Witt, C.M., Linde, K. and Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, 2018. Acupuncture for chronic pain: update of an individual patient data meta-analysis. The Journal of Pain, 19(5), pp.455-474.

White, A., Tough, L., Eyre, V., Vickery, J., Asprey, A., Quinn, C., Warren, F., Pritchard, C., Foster, N.E., Taylor, R.S. and Underwood, M., 2016. Western medical acupuncture in a group setting for knee osteoarthritis: results of a pilot randomised controlled trial. Pilot and feasibility studies2(1), pp.1-8.

Zhang, Q., Yue, J., Golianu, B., Sun, Z. and Lu, Y., 2017. Updated systematic review and meta-analysis of acupuncture for chronic knee pain. Acupuncture in Medicine, 35(6), pp.392-403.

Zijlstra, F.J., van den Berg-de Lange, I., Huygen, F.J. and Klein, J., 2003. Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. Mediators of inflammation, 12(2), pp.59-69.

Helen
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