Tag Archives: condition

Raynaud’s Phenomenon – Condition Resources

Under Construction

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has an evidence based factsheet on Raynaud’s Phenomenon and 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.

About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.

Resources:

British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) Raynaud’s Phenomenon factsheet

BAcC Research Digest

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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.

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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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Post Operative Pain – 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.

Our Nausea page may also be of use regarding Post Operative Nausea and Vomiting Research

Research and Resources on Post Operative Pain and Acupuncture:

A scholarly search of the available research papers on the terms “acupuncture” + “post operative pain” yields over 3,860 papers, and narrowing this to “RCT” to identify Randomised Controlled Trials, gives 583 results; of which 38% have been carried out since 2017 (Google Scholar). This suggests that acupuncture is being used in this area, leading to a small but growing body of research,, the pace of which has increased in recent years, indicating increased recognition that it is worthy of scientific appraisal regarding 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:

Sun et al’s (2008) systematic review of 15 RCT’s (n=1166) in the British Journal of Anaesthesia drew the conclusion that acupuncture around the time of surgery “may be a useful adjunct for acute postoperative pain management.” They also found lower incidence of opioid side effects such as post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV); dizziness and urinary retention in acupuncture groups. They also stated that further large and well-designed studies are needed to further examine this area including the most effective points and timings to use.

A systematic review of 5 trials for acupuncture post back surgery (Cho et al, 2015) found encouraging but limited evidence in this area, calling for more rigorously designed trials to further the research body. Chen et al (2021, 9 RCT’s; n=671) systematic review found acupuncture could improve function and reduce PONV after total knee arthroscopy surgery, with pain relief from acupuncture mainly achieved within the 48h post-surgery. Again limitations were acknowledged in the methodical quality of studies, with further large, high quality studies called for.

Wu et al (2016, systematic review of 13 studies) found that the evidence supported acupuncture use as an adjuvant therapy post surgery on the first day, significantly reducing postoperative pain and the use of opioids. A Systematic review of 35 trials into acupuncture and post-operative pain has indicated promise in this area, indicating that further research is needed as to whether using both local and distal points can be beneficial over an either/or approach (Zhu et al, 2019).

Mechanisms of action:

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).

Resources:

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

References:

Post-Operative Pain References:

Chen, Z., Shen, Z., Ye, X., Xu, Y., Liu, J., Shi, X., Chen, G., Wu, J., Chen, W., Jiang, T. and Liu, W., 2021. Acupuncture for Rehabilitation After Total Knee Arthroplasty: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Frontiers in medicine7, p.1050.

Cho, Y.H., Kim, C.K., Heo, K.H., Lee, M.S., Ha, I.H., Son, D.W., Choi, B.K., Song, G.S. and Shin, B.C., 2015. Acupuncture for acute postoperative pain after back surgery: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Practice15(3), pp.279-291.

Sun, Y., Gan, T.J., Dubose, J.W. and Habib, A.S., 2008. Acupuncture and related techniques for postoperative pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. British journal of anaesthesia101(2), pp.151-160.

Wu, M.S., Chen, K.H., Chen, I.F., Huang, S.K., Tzeng, P.C., Yeh, M.L., Lee, F.P., Lin, J.G. and Chen, C., 2016. The efficacy of acupuncture in post-operative pain management: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one11(3), p.e0150367.

Zhu, J., Xu, Q., Zou, R., Wu, W., Wang, X., Wang, Y., Ji, F., Zheng, Z. and Zheng, M., 2019. Distal acupoint stimulation versus peri-incisional stimulation for postoperative pain in open abdominal surgery: a systematic review and implications for clinical practice. BMC complementary and alternative medicine19(1), pp.1-14.

Mechanism Of Action in Pain 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.

Helen
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Pain & Painful disorders – Condition Resources

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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).

About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.

Resources:

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

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.

Helen
0 comment

Musculoskeletal System – 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.

The MusculoSkeletal (MSK) system concerns the joints, bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles of the body and is often a cause for patients to present to acupuncture as symptoms in this system can be of pain, stiffness, affects on flexibility and mobility in joints and muscles.

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:

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.

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).

Plantar Fasciitis

The British Acupuncture Council has a Research digest where they examined some recent studies on plantar heel pain (plantar fasciitis – link below).  Systematic reviews by Thiagarajah (2017) found promising evidence for short term pain relief in the condition, but looked to future long-term studies to improve the evidence base, and Salvioli et al’s (2017) systematic review of the same looked at 20 studies entailing 9 different types of intervention found improvement over placebo, but looked toward future studies to corroborate this.

Tennis Elbow

The British Acupuncture Council has a Research digest where they examined some recent studies on lateral elbow pain, as well as an evidence based factsheet (tennis elbow – links are below), finding promising evidence in the field.   

Gadau et al, (2014) conducted a systematic review of 19 RCTs of varying quality were examined, and overall the evidence suggested acupuncture was more effective than sham control.  Tang et al (2015) looed at a smaller number of RCT and were more tentative about the outcomes due to concern over trial designs and highlighted a need for further research.

Recent small trials include one comparing acupuncture and manipulation (n=35; Hsu et al, 2016) in which both groups experienced improvement in pain and function.  Another looked at ultrasound imaging of the affected tendon to evaluate acupuncture’s effect, finding reduction of tendon thickness after 10 sessions as well as improvement in pain scores (Ural et al 2017; n-41).  A further trial (Wong  et al, 2017; n=34) compared acupuncture and extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), finding a trend of improvement in pain scores in both groups.

Temporomandibular Pain (TM / TMJ)

The British Acupuncture Council has a Research digest where they examined some recent studies on temporomandibular pain, as well as an evidence based factsheet (links are below), finding promising evidence in the field.   Fernandes et al (2017) systematic review looked at 4 trials into TMD of muscular origin, finding acupuncture appears to relieve symptoms in this condition, albeit they noted evidence quality was limited and further research was needed in future in this area.

Justo et al (2017) carried out a systematic review of 4 articles finding that overall, acupuncture was effective in relieving myofascial pain symptoms in patients with temporomandibular dysfunction, albeit that the quality and quantity of the studies meant further research is needed in the area, including for long term outcomes.  This echoes La Touche et al’s earlier (2010) systematic review where they found that the majority of the studies reported that  acupuncture was statistically significant for short term pain relief of myofascial TMD but with the proviso that more studies with larger sample sizes, longer-term follow-up and higher design quality were required in the future to corroborate these trends.

Shoulder Pain

The British Acupuncture Council has a Research digest where they examined some recent studies on shoulder pain, as well as an evidence based factsheet (links are below)

Shoulder pain was included in large chronic pain review of RCTs updating a previous meta-analysis (Vickers et al, 2018; 39 trials, n=20827), acupuncture showed a significant clinical superiority over usual care and a smaller advantage over sham.

Another systematic review and meta analysis of acupuncture in shoulder pain post stroke (Lee & Lim, 2016), saw that over 12 RCTs  found it more effective that rehabilitation alone  finding it a useful for this, with the authors calling for  further trials of high quality to corroborate this.

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 shoulder pain.

Neck Pain

Since 1005, over 50 NHS publications have recommended acupuncture for neck pain (many more worldwide; Birch et al 2018).

A randomised trial comparing Alexander technique with acupuncture or usual care alone (MacPherson et al, 2015; n=517) found both acupuncture and Alexander Technique benefitted the participants after a series of sessions, and this benefit ensured at 12 months post treatment, in that their disability level and pain measures were improved.   Essex et al (2017) looked at acupuncture and Alexander technique (ATLAS trial) data, in terms of cost effectiveness, using the NHS standard quality adjusted life years (QALYs) as well as neck pain measures, finding acupuncture to be cost effective as well as effective.  Alexander Technque whilst effect, was not cost effective as it cost more per the amount of gain that could be made.

Van der Velde et al’s (2016) review of whiplash acquired neck pain and disorders, finding acupuncture appeared a cost-effective intervention in these cases.  Seo et al, 2017 in a systematic review and meta-analysis of 16 trials of (electro)acupuncture in chronic neck pain found acupuncture to be effective, and even more so in combination with routine care, their drawings were tentative due to research quality of the trials used.

The British Acupuncture Council has a Research digest where they examined some recent studies on shoulder pain, as well as an evidence based factsheet (links are below).  One such study was Ho et al, (2017), an RCT of abdominal acupuncture in neck pain in Hong Kong (n=154), finding the true acupuncture group experienced symptomatic relief as well as quality of life measurement improvements. 

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 neck pain.

Back pain

Back pain is the single most common condition for which patients seek acupuncture, and many parts of the NHS either offer or recommend acupuncture for back pain, with over 100 clinical practice guidelines worldwide giving positive recommendations for acupuncture for back pain (Birch et al, 2018).  The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network recommends acupuncture for back pain.

Back pain was included in large chronic pain review of RCTs updating a previous meta-analysis (Vickers et al, 2018; 39 trials, n=20827) acupuncture showed a significant clinical superiority over usual care and a smaller advantage over sham.  The researchers found that treatment effects persisted over time and couldn’t be explained solely in terms of placebo effects, meaning that acupuncture treatment was a reasonable option for some types of chronic pain, including back pain.

The American College of Physicians’ clinical practise guidelines nonpharmacologic treatment options for low back pain reviewed new evidence and found acupuncture useful for pain relief and to some extent function, although they had reservations about the strength of the evidence, meaning long term studies are needed (Chou et al, 2016, 2017).

The Clinical Practise Guidelines for managing low back pain, a systematic review on 13 sets of guidelines by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration looked at non-invasive techniques including acupuncture – acupuncture was one of the top recommended (non-invasive) interventions in the guidelines, where 10 sessions over 12 weeks was the recommended intervention for low back pain, and commented that high-quality guidelines support this whilst underlining that different techniques have different levels of effectiveness (Wong et al, 2017).

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 pain.

Sciatica

Sciatica is also known by its medical name lumbar radiculopathy, and is where nerves become impinged in the lower back, causing referred pain and neurological (nerve-related) symptoms into the areas that nerve supplies, usually buttock and lower limb.

Evidence suggests acupuncture may provide pain relief in sciatica; RCTs such as Wang (2009; n=139) comparing acupuncture and TENS and finding in favour of acupuncture; another finding for acupuncture’s effectiveness along with an increase in pain threshold in the true acupuncture group (Chen et al, 2009; n=90).

Other studies have looked at how the above may come about, for example Inoue et al (2008), in a clinical trial where patients had improvement in pain and nerve symptoms from lower back impingement, and put forward the theory that as seen in animal studies the blood flow in the region of the sciatic nerve was modulated by acupuncture, as well as the well known mechanisms of action of acupuncture in pain relief and inflammation reduction.

A network meta-analysis comparing 21 different therapies for sciatica (Lewis et al, 2015), finding acupuncture the second-best therapy in terms of addressing pain intensity and in terms of overall effect and having a statistically significant effect, leading them to suggest it should be considered as a treatment option.

Knee pain

Knee pain was included in large chronic pain review of RCTs updating a previous meta-analysis (Vickers et al, 2018; 39 trials, n=20827) acupuncture showed a significant clinical superiority over usual care.

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.

About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.

Mechanisms of action:

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.

British Acupuncture Council Research Digest – Musculoskeletal chronic pain conditions (plantar fasciitis; tennis elbow; temporomandibular pain, shoulder pain, sciatica, back pain) (approx halfway down the document)

BAcC Sciatica Factsheet

BacC Back Pain Factsheet

BAcC Sports Injuries Factsheet

BAcC Tendonitis (Tennis / Golfer’s Elbow) Factsheet

References General:

Ambrósio, E.M.M., Bloor, K. and MacPherson, H., 2012. Costs and consequences of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain: a systematic review of economic evaluations conducted alongside randomised controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 20(5), pp.364-374.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Plantar Fasciitis References

Salvioli, S., Guidi, M. and Marcotulli, G., 2017. The effectiveness of conservative, non-pharmacological treatment, of plantar heel pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis. The Foot33, pp.57-67.

Thiagarajah, A.G., 2017. How effective is acupuncture for reducing pain due to plantar fasciitis?. Singapore medical journal58(2), p.92.

Tennis Elbow References

Gadau, M., Yeung, W.F., Liu, H., Zaslawski, C., Tan, Y.S., Wang, F.C., Bangrazi, S., Chung, K.F., Bian, Z.X. and Zhang, S.P., 2014. Acupuncture and moxibustion for lateral elbow pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine14(1), pp.1-19.

Tang, H., Fan, H., Chen, J., Yang, M., Yi, X., Dai, G., Chen, J., Tang, L., Rong, H., Wu, J. and Liang, F., 2015. Acupuncture for lateral epicondylitis: a systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine2015.

Hsu, C.Y., Lee, K.H., Huang, H.C., Chang, Z.Y., Chen, H.Y. and Yang, T.H., 2016. Manipulation therapy relieved pain more rapidly than acupuncture among lateral epicondylalgia (tennis elbow) patients: a randomized controlled trial with 8-week follow-up. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2016.

Ural, F.G., Öztürk, G.T., Bölük, H. and Akkuş, S., 2017. Ultrasonographic evaluation of acupuncture effect on common extensor tendon thickness in patients with lateral epicondylitis: a randomized controlled study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine23(10), pp.819-822.

Wong, C.W.Y., Ng, E.Y.L., Fung, P.W., Mok, K.M., Yung, P.S.H. and Chan, K.M., 2017. Comparison of treatment effects on lateral epicondylitis between acupuncture and extracorporeal shockwave therapy. Asia-Pacific journal of sports medicine, arthroscopy, rehabilitation and technology7, pp.21-26.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder References

Justo, A.C.B.D.C., Moura, D.M.D., Da Silva, L.G.D., De Almeida, E.O. and Barbosa, G.A.S., 2017. Acupuncture in temporomandibular disorder myofascial pain treatment: a systematic review. CEP59056, p.000.

La Touche, R., Angulo-Díaz-Parreño, S., de-la-Hoz, J.L., Fernández-Carnero, J., Ge, H.Y., Linares, M.T., Mesa, J. and Sánchez-Gutiérrez, J., 2010. Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders of muscular origin: a systematic review of the last decade. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine16(1), pp.107-112.

Fernandes AC, Duarte Moura DM, Da Silva LGD, De Almeida EO, Barbosa GAS. Acupuncture in Temporomandibular Disorder Myofascial Pain Treatment: A Systematic Review. J Oral Facial Pain Headache. 2017 Summer;31(3):225-232. doi: 10.11607/ofph.1719. PMID: 28738107.

Shoulder 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 Pain19(5), pp.455-474.

Lee, S.H. and Lim, S.M., 2016. Acupuncture for poststroke shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2016.

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.

Neck Pain References

MacPherson, H., Tilbrook, H., Richmond, S., Woodman, J., Ballard, K., Atkin, K., Bland, M., Eldred, J., Essex, H., Hewitt, C. and Hopton, A., 2015. Alexander technique lessons or acupuncture sessions for persons with chronic neck pain: a randomized trial. Annals of internal medicine, 163(9), pp.653-662.

van der Velde, G., Yu, H., Paulden, M., Côté, P., Varatharajan, S., Shearer, H.M., Wong, J.J., Randhawa, K., Southerst, D., Mior, S. and Sutton, D., 2016. Which interventions are cost-effective for the management of whiplash-associated and neck pain-associated disorders? A systematic review of the health economic literature by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. The Spine Journal, 16(12), pp.1582-1597.

Essex, H., Parrott, S., Atkin, K., Ballard, K., Bland, M., Eldred, J., Hewitt, C., Hopton, A., Keding, A., Lansdown, H. and Richmond, S., 2017. An economic evaluation of Alexander Technique lessons or acupuncture sessions for patients with chronic neck pain: A randomized trial (ATLAS). PloS one, 12(12), p.e0178918.

Seo, S.Y., Lee, K.B., Shin, J.S., Lee, J., Kim, M.R., Ha, I.H., Ko, Y. and Lee, Y.J., 2017. Effectiveness of acupuncture and electroacupuncture for chronic neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 45(08), pp.1573-1595.

Ho, L.F., Lin, Z.X., Leung, A.W.N., Chen, L., Zhang, H., Ng, B.F.L., Ziea, E.T.C. and Guo, Y., 2017. Efficacy of abdominal acupuncture for neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. PloS one, 12(7), p.e0181360.

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.

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.

Back Pain 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 Medicine, 24(8), pp.752-769.

Chou, R., Deyo, R., Friedly, J., Skelly, A., Hashimoto, R., Weimer, M., Fu, R., Dana, T., Kraegel, P., Griffin, J. and Grusing, S., 2017. Nonpharmacologic therapies for low back pain: a systematic review for an American College of Physicians Clinical Practice Guideline. Annals of internal medicine, 166(7), pp.493-505.

Chou, R., Deyo, R., Friedly, J., Skelly, A., Hashimoto, R., Weimer, M., Fu, R., Dana, T., Kraegel, P., Griffin, J. and Grusing, S., 2016. Noninvasive treatments for low back pain.

Wong, J.J., Côté, P., Sutton, D.A., Randhawa, K., Yu, H., Varatharajan, S., Goldgrub, R., Nordin, M., Gross, D.P., Shearer, H.M. and Carroll, L.J., 2017. Clinical practice guidelines for the noninvasive management of low back pain: A systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. European journal of pain21(2), pp.201-216.

Lewis, R.A., Williams, N.H., Sutton, A.J., Burton, K., Din, N.U., Matar, H.E., Hendry, M., Phillips, C.J., Nafees, S., Fitzsimmons, D. and Rickard, I., 2015. Comparative clinical effectiveness of management strategies for sciatica: systematic review and network meta-analyses. The Spine Journal15(6),

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.pp.1461-1477.

Sciatica References

Chen, M.R., Ping, W., Cheng, G., Xiang, G.U.O., Wei, G.W. and Cheng, X.H., 2009. The warming acupuncture for treatment of sciatica in 30 cases. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 29(1), pp.50-53.

Inoue, M., Kitakoji, H., Yano, T., Ishizaki, N., Itoi, M. and Katsumi, Y., 2008. Acupuncture treatment for low back pain and lower limb symptoms—the relation between acupuncture or electroacupuncture stimulation and sciatic nerve blood flow. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 5(2), pp.133-143.

Lewis, R.A., Williams, N.H., Sutton, A.J., Burton, K., Din, N.U., Matar, H.E., Hendry, M., Phillips, C.J., Nafees, S., Fitzsimmons, D. and Rickard, I., 2015. Comparative clinical effectiveness of management strategies for sciatica: systematic review and network meta-analyses. The Spine Journal, 15(6), pp.1461-1477.

Wang ZX. [Clinical observation on electroacupuncture at acupoints for treatment of senile radical sciatica]. Zhongguo Zhenjiu 2009; 29(2): 126-8.

Knee References

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.

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 Pain19(5), pp.455-474.

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. 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

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Migraine – 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.

Over 80 NHS publications since 2005 have recommended acupuncture both for tension headaches and migraine (and many more worldwide (Birch et al, 2018)

About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) reviewed the evidence for acupuncture in migraine and tension headaches, where a large number of trials have been carried out, considerably more effective than placebo (Tavola et al, 1992.) The BAcC concluded there was some evidence that acupuncture has a significant therapeutic effect on symptoms such as pain and frequency in migraine attacks. It was also noted in a crossover research trial that in addition to demonstrating a significant effect in reduction of frequency of attacks and their duration, that acupuncture has a very low side effect profile (Hesse et al, 1994; Loh et al, 1984).

The British Acupuncture Council has a Research digest where they examined some recent studies on headache and migraine, as well as an evidence based factsheet (links are below).

Acupuncture has had a good profile for both migraine and tension headaches since the Cochrane review of 2009, which was updated in 2016 (Linde et al), including 22 trials (n=4985), finding evidence to suggest that adding acupuncture to symptomatic treatment of attacks reduces the frequency of headaches.  The researchers expressed the need for further long term trials in this area.

The current NICE headache guidelines (2012; 1.3.9) state the following: “Prophylactic treatment: Consider a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5 to 8 weeks for the prophylactic treatment of chronic tension‑type headache.”

A systematic review on migraine without aura (Xu et al, 2018) examined 14 RCTs (n=1155), drawing the conclusion that acupuncture is safe, more beneficial that sham control in addressing symptoms, although they were reserved in the strength of this finding by the quality of some of the evidence available, meaning further studies were warranted.

Ambrosie et el, (2012) looked at cost effectiveness of acupuncture use in this field, using the NHS measure of cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) gain from treatment usage, finding acupuncture to be cost effective by this measure.

A systematic review protocol was put forward recently (Zhang et al, 2020) for auricular (ear protocol) acupuncture in migraine, so it will be of interest to see the outcome when this is published.

Mechanisms of action:

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; Park, 2009).

Resources:

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

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

British Acupuncture Council Research Digest – Headache and Migraine (approx halfway down the document)

British Acupuncture Council Review Paper Migraine and Acupuncture: The evidence for effectiveness

BAcC Factsheet on Stress

References:

Ambrósio, E.M.M., Bloor, K. and MacPherson, H., 2012. Costs and consequences of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain: a systematic review of economic evaluations conducted alongside randomised controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine20(5), pp.364-374.

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.

Hesse J, Movelvang B, Simonsen H. (1994) Acupuncture versus metroplol in migraine prohylaxis: a randomised trial of trigger point activation. J Intern Med 235: 451-6

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.

Linde, K., Allais, G., Brinkhaus, B., Fei, Y., Mehring, M., Vertosick, E.A., Vickers, A. and White, A.R., 2016. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (6).

Loh L, Nathan PW, Schott GD, Zilkha KJ. (1984) Acupuncture versus medical treatment for migraine and muscle tension headaches. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 47: 333-7

National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2021) Headaches in over 12s: diagnosis and management Clinical guideline [CG150]Published: 19 September 2012 Last updated: 12 May 2021

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.

Tavola T, Gala C, Conte G, Inverizzi G. (1992) Traditional Chinese acupuncture in tension- type headache: a controlled study. Pain 48: 325-9

Xu, J., Zhang, F.Q., Pei, J. and Ji, J., 2018. Acupuncture for migraine without aura: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of integrative medicine16(5), pp.312-321.

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

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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Mental Health – 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.

About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.

The British Acupuncture Council Research Digest (see link below) looks at some of the more recent studies and trials to have been done into Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and Insomnia

See our own Blog on the research for Acupuncture and depression, anxiety, stress and mental health issues.

Resources:

British Acupuncture Council evidence based factsheets exist for the following conditions, including specific research, trials and mechanisms of action for acupuncture in this condition: Anxiety; Depression; Insomnia; PTSD, Stress

British Acupuncture Council Research Digest – Mental Heath (toward the bottom of the document)

Helen
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Knee Pain – 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.

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.

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).

Knee pain

Knee pain was included in large chronic pain review of RCTs updating a previous meta-analysis (Vickers et al, 2018; 39 trials, n=20827) acupuncture showed a significant clinical superiority over usual care and a smaller advantage over sham.

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.

Osteoarthritis:

The British Acupuncture Council’s Research Digest includes information on recent trials looking at acupuncture and osteoarthritic knee pain (around 1/5 of the way down the Research Digest page). More detail on this is in our Arthritis page.

About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.

Resources:

British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) Chronic Pain factsheet

BAcC Research Digest

References:

Knee References:

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.

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 Pain19(5), pp.455-474.

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.

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.

General Chronic Pain References:

Ambrósio, E.M.M., Bloor, K. and MacPherson, H., 2012. Costs and consequences of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain: a systematic review of economic evaluations conducted alongside randomised controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 20(5), pp.364-374.

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.

Helen
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