Randomised clinical trials, The National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins all support the benefits of acupuncture; they do not come only from the positioning of the needles; effects on the brain, on expectation and belief clearly make an, as yet unexplained, difference.
Acupuncture for pain relief
In an updated meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Clinical trials (RCTs) between 2008 and 2015 the authors studied the effects of acupuncture on pain relief concluded: ‘The results confirm and strengthen previous key findings that acupuncture has a clinically relevant effect compared with no acupuncture control. These effects appeared to persist for at least 12 months after receiving acupuncture’.
They also stated that ‘the effects of acupuncture are not completely explicable in terms of placebo effects’ and ‘factors other than the specific effects of needling at correct acupuncture point locations do contribute to the benefits derived from receiving acupuncture’.
So what types of pain are helped by acupuncture?
Various studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic – such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain.
Acupuncture also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches.
Therefore, acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider.
What is becoming clear is that the effects of acupuncture on the brain and body and how best to measure them are only just beginning to be understood.
Research evidence suggests that many factors seemingly unrelated to acupuncture needling (for example, expectation and belief), may actually play multiple and important roles in the overall beneficial effects of acupuncture on pain.
What conditions can acupuncture treat?
National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies have evidenced that acupuncture is an effective treatment alone or in combination with conventional therapies to treat the following:
- Nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy
- Dental pain after surgery
- Menstrual cramps
- Tennis elbow
- Myofascial pain
- Low back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
It may also help with stroke rehabilitation.