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1.  Acupuncture as a complementary therapy to the pharmacological treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: randomised controlled trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2004;329(7476):1216.
Objectives To analyse the efficacy of acupuncture as a complementary therapy to the pharmacological treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, with respect to pain relief, reduction of stiffness, and increased physical function during treatment; modifications in the consumption of diclofenac during treatment; and changes in the patient's quality of life.
Design Randomised, controlled, single blind trial, with blinded evaluation and statistical analysis of results.
Setting Pain management unit in a public primary care centre in southern Spain, over a period of two years.
Participants 97 outpatients presenting with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Interventions Patients were randomly separated into two groups, one receiving acupuncture plus diclofenac (n = 48) and the other placebo acupuncture plus diclofenac (n = 49).
Main outcome measures The clinical variables examined included intensity of pain as measured by a visual analogue scale; pain, stiffness, and physical function subscales of the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) osteoarthritis index; dosage of diclofenac taken during treatment; and the profile of quality of life in the chronically ill (PQLC) instrument, evaluated before and after the treatment programme.
Results 88 patients completed the trial. In the intention to treat analysis, the WOMAC index presented a greater reduction in the intervention group than in the control group (mean difference 23.9, 95% confidence interval 15.0 to 32.8) The reduction was greater in the subscale of functional activity. The same result was observed in the pain visual analogue scale, with a reduction of 26.6 (18.5 to 34.8). The PQLC results indicate that acupuncture treatment produces significant changes in physical capability (P = 0.021) and psychological functioning (P = 0.046). Three patients reported bruising after the acupuncture sessions.
Conclusions Acupuncture plus diclofenac is more effective than placebo acupuncture plus diclofenac for the symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.
PMCID: PMC529365  PMID: 15494348
2.  Randomised trial of acupuncture compared with conventional massage and “sham” laser acupuncture for treatment of chronic neck pain 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2001;322(7302):1574.
To compare the efficacy of acupuncture and conventional massage for the treatment of chronic neck pain.
Prospective, randomised, placebo controlled trial.
Three outpatient departments in Germany.
177 patients aged 18-85 years with chronic neck pain.
Patients were randomly allocated to five treatments over three weeks with acupuncture (56), massage (60), or “sham” laser acupuncture (61).
Main outcome measures
Primary outcome measure: maximum pain related to motion (visual analogue scale) irrespective of direction of movement one week after treatment. Secondary outcome measures: range of motion (3D ultrasound real time motion analyser), pain related to movement in six directions (visual analogue scale), pressure pain threshold (pressure algometer), changes of spontaneous pain, motion related pain, global complaints (seven point scale), and quality of life (SF-36). Assessments were performed before, during, and one week and three months after treatment. Patients' beliefs in treatment were assessed.
One week after five treatments the acupuncture group showed a significantly greater improvement in motion related pain compared with massage (difference 24.22 (95% confidence interval 16.5 to 31.9), P=0.0052) but not compared with sham laser (17.28 (10.0 to 24.6), P=0.327). Differences between acupuncture and massage or sham laser were greater in the subgroup who had had pain for longer than five years (n=75) and in patients with myofascial pain syndrome (n=129). The acupuncture group had the best results in most secondary outcome measures. There were no differences in patients' beliefs in treatment.
Acupuncture is an effective short term treatment for patients with chronic neck pain, but there is only limited evidence for long term effects after five treatments.
What is already known on this topicAcupuncture is a widespread complementary treatmentEvidence from trials have given conflicting results on its use in the treatment of neck pain because of methodological shortcomings and because effects were compared either with alternative treatments or with different sham procedures imitating acupuncture, but not bothWhat this study addsCompared with sham laser acupuncture and massage, needle acupuncture has beneficial effects on mobility and pain related to motion in patients with chronic neck painAcupuncture was clearly more effective than massage, but differences were not always significant compared with sham laser acupunctureAcupuncture was the best treatment for patients with the myofascial syndrome and those who had had pain for longer than five years
PMCID: PMC33515  PMID: 11431299
3.  Acupuncture as an adjunct to exercise based physiotherapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: randomised controlled trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;335(7617):436.
Objective To investigate the benefit of adding acupuncture to a course of advice and exercise delivered by physiotherapists for pain reduction in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Design Multicentre, randomised controlled trial.
Setting 37 physiotherapy centres accepting primary care patients referred from general practitioners in the Midlands, United Kingdom.
Participants 352 adults aged 50 or more with a clinical diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis.
Interventions Advice and exercise (n=116), advice and exercise plus true acupuncture (n=117), and advice and exercise plus non-penetrating acupuncture (n=119).
Main outcome measures The primary outcome was change in scores on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities osteoarthritis index pain subscale at six months. Secondary outcomes included function, pain intensity, and unpleasantness of pain at two weeks, six weeks, six months, and 12 months.
Results Follow-up rate at six months was 94%. The mean (SD) baseline pain score was 9.2 (3.8). At six months mean reductions in pain were 2.28 (3.8) for advice and exercise, 2.32 (3.6) for advice and exercise plus true acupuncture, and 2.53 (4.2) for advice and exercise plus non-penetrating acupuncture. Mean differences in change scores between advice and exercise alone and each acupuncture group were 0.08 (95% confidence interval −1.0 to 0.9) for advice and exercise plus true acupuncture and 0.25 (−0.8 to 1.3) for advice and exercise plus non-penetrating acupuncture. Similar non-significant differences were seen at other follow-up points. Compared with advice and exercise alone there were small, statistically significant improvements in pain intensity and unpleasantness at two and six weeks for true acupuncture and at all follow-up points for non-penetrating acupuncture.
Conclusion The addition of acupuncture to a course of advice and exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee delivered by physiotherapists provided no additional improvement in pain scores. Small benefits in pain intensity and unpleasantness were observed in both acupuncture groups, making it unlikely that this was due to acupuncture needling effects.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN88597683.
PMCID: PMC1962890  PMID: 17699546
Knee OA is a chronic disease associated with significant morbidity and economic cost. The efficacy of acupuncture in addition to traditional physical therapy has received little study.
To compare the efficacy and safety of integrating a standardized true acupuncture protocol versus non-penetrating acupuncture into exercise-based physical therapy (EPT).
This was a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial at 3 physical therapy centers in Philadelphia, PA. We studied 214 patients (66% African-American) with at least 6 months of chronic knee pain and X-ray confirmed Kellgren scores of 2 or 3. Patients received 12 sessions of acupuncture directly following EPT over 6–12 weeks. Acupuncture was performed at the same 9 points dictated by the Traditional Chinese “Bi” syndrome approach to knee pain, using either standard needles or Streitberger non-skin puncturing needles. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with at least a 36% improvement in Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) score at 12 weeks.
Both treatment groups showed improvement from combined therapy with no difference between true (31.6%) and non-penetrating acupuncture (30.3%) in WOMAC response rate (p=0.5) or report of minor adverse events. A multivariable logistic regression prediction model identified an association between a positive expectation of relief from acupuncture and reported improvement. No differences were noted by race, sex, or age.
Puncturing acupuncture needles did not perform any better than non-puncturing needles integrated with EPT. Whether EPT, acupuncture, or other factors accounted for any improvement noted in both groups could not be determined in this study. Expectation for relief was a predictor of reported benefit.
PMCID: PMC3782092  PMID: 23965480
Acupuncture; Osteoarthritis of the knee; Randomized clinical trial; African American; Non-puncturing needle; physical therapy; placebo controlled; obese patients
5.  Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia 
One in five fibromyalgia sufferers use acupuncture treatment within two years of diagnosis.
To examine the benefits and safety of acupuncture treatment for fibromyalgia.
Search methods
We searched CENTRAL, PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, National Research Register, HSR Project and Current Contents, as well as the Chinese databases VIP and Wangfang to January 2012 with no language restrictions.
Selection criteria
Randomised and quasi-randomised studies evaluating any type of invasive acupuncture for fibromyalgia diagnosed according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria, and reporting any main outcome: pain, physical function, fatigue, sleep, total well-being, stiffness and adverse events.
Data collection and analysis
Two author pairs selected trials, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Treatment effects were reported as standardised mean differences (SMD) and 95%confidence intervals (CI) for continuous outcomes using different measurement tools (pain, physical function, fatigue, sleep, total well-being and stiffness) and risk ratio (RR) and 95% CI for dichotomous outcomes (adverse events).We pooled data using the random-effects model.
Main results
Nine trials (395 participants) were included. All studies except one were at low risk of selection bias; five were at risk of selective reporting bias (favouring either treatment group); two were subject to attrition bias (favouring acupuncture); three were subject to performance bias (favouring acupuncture) and one to detection bias (favouring acupuncture). Three studies utilised electro-acupuncture (EA) with the remainder using manual acupuncture (MA) without electrical stimulation. All studies used ’formula acupuncture’ except for one, which used trigger points.
Low quality evidence from one study (13 participants) showed EA improved symptoms with no adverse events at one month following treatment. Mean pain in the non-treatment control group was 70 points on a 100 point scale; EA reduced pain by a mean of 22 points (95% confidence interval (CI) 4 to 41), or 22% absolute improvement. Control group global well-being was 66.5 points on a 100 point scale; EA improved well-being by a mean of 15 points (95% CI 5 to 26 points). Control group stiffness was 4.8 points on a 0 to 10 point; EA reduced stiffness by a mean of 0.9 points (95% CI 0.1 to 2 points; absolute reduction 9%, 95% CI 4% to 16%). Fatigue was 4.5 points (10 point scale) without treatment; EA reduced fatigue by a mean of 1 point (95% CI 0.22 to 2 points), absolute reduction 11% (2% to 20%). There was no difference in sleep quality (MD 0.4 points, 95% CI −1 to 0.21 points, 10 point scale), and physical function was not reported.
Moderate quality evidence from six studies (286 participants) indicated that acupuncture (EA or MA) was no better than sham acupuncture, except for less stiffness at one month. Subgroup analysis of two studies (104 participants) indicated benefits of EA. Mean pain was 70 points on 0 to 100 point scale with sham treatment; EA reduced pain by 13% (5% to 22%); (SMD −0.63, 95% CI −1.02 to −0.23). Global well-being was 5.2 points on a 10 point scale with sham treatment; EA improved well-being: SMD 0.65, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.05; absolute improvement 11% (4% to 17%). EA improved sleep, from 3 points on a 0 to 10 point scale in the sham group: SMD 0.40 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.79); absolute improvement 8% (0.2% to 16%). Low-quality evidence from one study suggested that MA group resulted in poorer physical function: mean function in the sham group was 28 points (100 point scale); treatment worsened function by a mean of 6 points (95% CI −10.9 to −0.7). Low-quality evidence from three trials (289 participants) suggested no difference in adverse events between real (9%) and sham acupuncture (35%); RR 0.44 (95% CI 0.12 to 1.63).
Moderate quality evidence from one study (58 participants) found that compared with standard therapy alone (antidepressants and exercise), adjunct acupuncture therapy reduced pain at one month after treatment: mean pain was 8 points on a 0 to 10 point scale in the standard therapy group; treatment reduced pain by 3 points (95% CI −3.9 to −2.1), an absolute reduction of 30% (21% to 39%). Two people treated with acupuncture reported adverse events; there were none in the control group (RR 3.57; 95% CI 0.18 to 71.21). Global well-being, sleep, fatigue and stiffness were not reported. Physical function data were not usable.
Low quality evidence from one study (38 participants) showed a short-term benefit of acupuncture over antidepressants in pain relief: mean pain was 29 points (0 to 100 point scale) in the antidepressant group; acupuncture reduced pain by 17 points (95% CI −24.1 to −10.5). Other outcomes or adverse events were not reported.
Moderate-quality evidence from one study (41 participants) indicated that deep needling with or without deqi did not differ in pain, fatigue, function or adverse events. Other outcomes were not reported.
Four studies reported no differences between acupuncture and control or other treatments described at six to seven months follow-up.
No serious adverse events were reported, but there were insufficient adverse events to be certain of the risks.
Authors’ conclusions
There is low tomoderate-level evidence that compared with no treatment and standard therapy, acupuncture improves pain and stiffness in people with fibromyalgia. There is moderate-level evidence that the effect of acupuncture does not differ from sham acupuncture in reducing pain or fatigue, or improving sleep or global well-being. EA is probably better than MA for pain and stiffness reduction and improvement of global well-being, sleep and fatigue. The effect lasts up to one month, but is not maintained at six months follow-up. MA probably does not improve pain or physical functioning. Acupuncture appears safe. People with fibromyalgia may consider using EA alone or with exercise and medication. The small sample size, scarcity of studies for each comparison, lack of an ideal sham acupuncture weaken the level of evidence and its clinical implications. Larger studies are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4105202  PMID: 23728665
Acupuncture Therapy [*methods]; Fibromyalgia [*therapy]; Pain Management [methods]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Humans
6.  Is acupuncture a useful adjunct to physiotherapy for older adults with knee pain?: The "Acupuncture, Physiotherapy and Exercise" (APEX) study [ISRCTN88597683] 
Acupuncture is a popular non-pharmacological modality for treating musculoskeletal pain. Physiotherapists are one of the largest groups of acupuncture providers within the NHS, and they commonly use it alongside advice and exercise. Conclusive evidence of acupuncture's clinical effectiveness and its superiority over sham interventions is lacking. The Arthritis Research Campaign (arc) has funded this randomised sham-controlled trial which addresses three important questions. Firstly, we will determine the additional benefit of true acupuncture when used by physiotherapists alongside advice and exercise for older people presenting to primary care with knee pain. Secondly, we will evaluate sham acupuncture in the same way. Thirdly, we will investigate the treatment preferences and expectations of both the participants and physiotherapists participating in the study, and explore the effect of these on clinical outcome. We will thus investigate whether acupuncture is a useful adjunct to advice and exercise for treating knee pain and gain insight into whether this effect is due to specific needling properties.
This randomised clinical trial will recruit 350 participants with knee pain to three intervention arms. It is based in 43 community physiotherapy departments in 21 NHS Trusts in the West Midlands and Cheshire regions in England. Patients aged 50 years and over with knee pain will be recruited. Outcome data will be collected by self-complete questionnaires before randomisation, and 6 weeks, 6 months and 12 months after randomisation and by telephone interview 2 weeks after treatment commences. The questionnaires collect demographic details as well as information on knee-related pain, movement and function, pain intensity and affect, main functional problem, illness perceptions, self-efficacy, treatment preference and expectations, general health and quality of life. Participants are randomised to receive a package of advice and exercise; or this package plus real acupuncture; or this package plus sham acupuncture. Treatment details are being collected on a standard proforma. Interventions are delivered by experienced physiotherapists who have all received training in acupuncture to recognised national standards. The primary analysis will investigate the main treatment effects of real or sham acupuncture as an adjunct to advice and exercise.
This paper presents detail on the rationale, design, methods, and operational aspects of the trial.
PMCID: PMC520743  PMID: 15345098
7.  Acupuncture for pain and osteoarthritis of the knee: a pilot study for an open parallel-arm randomised controlled trial 
There is some evidence that acupuncture for pain and osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is more than a placebo, and short term clinical benefits have been observed when acupuncture is compared to usual care. However there is insufficient evidence on whether clinical benefits of acupuncture are sustained over the longer term. In this study our key objectives are to inform the design parameters for a fully powered pragmatic randomised controlled trial. These objectives include establishing potential recruitment rates, appropriate validated outcome measures, attendance levels for acupuncture treatment, loss to follow up and the sample size for a full scale trial.
Potential participants aged over 50 with pain and osteoarthritis of the knee were identified from a GP database. Eligible patients were randomised to either 'acupuncture plus usual care' and 'usual care' alone, with allocation appropriately concealed. Acupuncture consisted of up to 10 sessions usually weekly. Outcome measures included Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) index with the sample size for a full scale trial determined from the variance.
From the GP database of 15,927 patients, 335 potential trial participants were identified and invited to participate. After screening responses, 78 (23%) were identified as eligible and 30 patients who responded most promptly were randomised to 'acupuncture plus usual care' (15 patients) and 'usual care' alone (15 patients). Attendance for acupuncture appointments was high at 90% of the maximum. Although the trial was not powered to detect significant changes in outcome, the WOMAC pain index showed a statistically significant reduction at 3 months in the acupuncture group compared to usual care. This was not sustained at 12 months. The sample size for a fully powered two-arm trial was estimated to be 350.
This pilot study provided the evidence that a fully powered study to explore the longer term impact of acupuncture would be worthwhile, and relevant design features for such a trial were determined.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC2775018  PMID: 19852841
8.  Objectifying Specific and Nonspecific Effects of Acupuncture: A Double-Blinded Randomised Trial in Osteoarthritis of the Knee 
Introduction. Acupuncture was recently shown to be effective in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. However, controversy persists whether the observed effects are specific to acupuncture or merely nonspecific consequences of needling. Therefore, the objective of this study is to determine the efficacy of different acupuncture treatment modalities. Materials and Methods. We compared between three different forms of acupuncture in a prospective randomised trial with a novel double-blinded study design. One-hundred and sixteen patients aged from 35 to 82 with osteoarthritis of the knee were enrolled in three study centres. Interventions were individualised classical/ modern semistandardised acupuncture and non-specific needling. Blinded outcome assessment comprised knee flexibility and changes in pain according to the WOMAC score. Results and Discussion. Improvement in knee flexibility was significantly higher after classical Chinese acupuncture (10.3 degrees; 95% CI 8.9 to 11.7) as compared to modern acupuncture (4.7 degrees; 3.6 to 5.8). All methods achieved pain relief, with a patient response rate of 48 percent for non-specific needling, 64 percent for modern acupuncture, and 73 percent for classical acupuncture. Conclusion. This trial establishes a novel study design enabling double blinding in acupuncture studies. The data suggest a specific effect of acupuncture in knee mobility and both non-specific and specific effects of needling in pain relief.
PMCID: PMC3556424  PMID: 23365608
9.  Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001518.
In a randomized controlled trial, Hugh MacPherson and colleagues investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture and counseling compared with usual care alone for the treatment of depression symptoms in primary care settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Depression is a significant cause of morbidity. Many patients have communicated an interest in non-pharmacological therapies to their general practitioners. Systematic reviews of acupuncture and counselling for depression in primary care have identified limited evidence. The aim of this study was to evaluate acupuncture versus usual care and counselling versus usual care for patients who continue to experience depression in primary care.
Methods and Findings
In a randomised controlled trial, 755 patients with depression (Beck Depression Inventory BDI-II score ≥20) were recruited from 27 primary care practices in the North of England. Patients were randomised to one of three arms using a ratio of 2∶2∶1 to acupuncture (302), counselling (302), and usual care alone (151). The primary outcome was the difference in mean Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores at 3 months with secondary analyses over 12 months follow-up. Analysis was by intention-to-treat.
PHQ-9 data were available for 614 patients at 3 months and 572 patients at 12 months. Patients attended a mean of ten sessions for acupuncture and nine sessions for counselling. Compared to usual care, there was a statistically significant reduction in mean PHQ-9 depression scores at 3 months for acupuncture (−2.46, 95% CI −3.72 to −1.21) and counselling (−1.73, 95% CI −3.00 to −0.45), and over 12 months for acupuncture (−1.55, 95% CI −2.41 to −0.70) and counselling (−1.50, 95% CI −2.43 to −0.58). Differences between acupuncture and counselling were not significant. In terms of limitations, the trial was not designed to separate out specific from non-specific effects. No serious treatment-related adverse events were reported.
In this randomised controlled trial of acupuncture and counselling for patients presenting with depression, after having consulted their general practitioner in primary care, both interventions were associated with significantly reduced depression at 3 months when compared to usual care alone.
Trial Registration ISRCTN63787732
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depression–overwhelming sadness and hopelessness–is responsible for a substantial proportion of the global disease burden and is a major cause of suicide. It affects more than 350 million people worldwide and about one in six people will have an episode of depression during their lifetime. Depression is different from everyday mood fluctuations. For people who are clinically depressed, feelings of severe sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and worthlessness can last for months and years. Affected individuals lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and sometimes have physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep. Clinicians can diagnose depression and determine its severity by asking patients to complete a questionnaire (for example, the Beck Depression Inventory [BDI-II] or the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 [PHQ-9]) about their feelings and symptoms. The answer to each question is given a score and the total score from the questionnaire (“depression rating scale”) indicates the severity of depression. Antidepressant drugs are usually the front-line treatment for depression in primary care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, antidepressants don't work for more than half of patients. Moreover, many patients would like to be offered non-pharmacological treatment options for depression such as acupuncture–a therapy originating from China in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points of the body–and counseling–a “talking therapy” that provides patients with a safe, non-judgmental place to express feelings and emotions and that helps them recognize their capacity for growth and fulfillment. However, it is unclear whether either of these treatments is effective in depression. In this pragmatic randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling in patients with depression compared to usual care in primary care in northern England. A randomized controlled trial compares outcomes in groups of patients who are assigned to different interventions through the play of chance. A pragmatic trial asks whether the intervention works under real-life conditions. Patient selection reflects routine practice and some aspects of the intervention are left to the discretion of clinician, By contrast, an explanatory trial asks whether an intervention works under ideal conditions and involves a strict protocol for patient selection and treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 755 patients who had consulted their primary health care provider about depression within the past 5 years and who had a score of more than 20 on the BDI-II–a score that is defined as moderate-to-severe depression on this depression rating scale–at the start of the study. Patients were randomized to receive up to 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care (302 patients), up to 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care (302 patients), or usual care alone (151 patients). Both the acupuncture protocol and the counseling protocols allowed for some individualization of treatment. Usual care, including antidepressants, was available according to need and monitored in all three groups. Compared to usual care alone, there was a significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in the average PHQ-9 scores at both 3 and 6 months for both the acupuncture and counseling interventions. The difference between the mean PHQ-9 score for acupuncture and counseling was not significant. At 9 months and 12 months, because of improvements in the PHQ-9 scores in the usual care group, acupuncture and counseling were no longer significantly better than usual care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, compared to usual care alone, both acupuncture and counseling when provided alongside usual care provided significant benefits at 3 months in primary care to patients with recurring depression. Because this trial was a pragmatic trial, these findings cannot indicate which aspects of acupuncture and counseling are likely to be most or least beneficial. Nevertheless they do provide an estimate of the overall effects of these complex interventions, an estimate that is of most interest to patients, practitioners, and health care providers. Moreover, because this trial only considers the effect of these interventions on patients with moderate-to-severe depression as classified by the BDI-II; it provides no information about the effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling compared to usual care for patients with mild depression. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that further research into optimal treatment regimens for the treatment of depression with acupuncture and counseling is merited.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about depression, including personal stories about depression, and information on counseling and acupuncture
The UK charity Mind provides information on depression, on talking treatments, and on complementary and alternative therapies including acupuncture; Mind also includes personal stories about depression on its website
More personal stories about depression are available from Healthtalkonline
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression and about acupuncture (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3782410  PMID: 24086114
10.  Moxibustion for treating knee osteoarthritis: study protocol of a multicentre randomised controlled trial 
The treatment of knee osteoarthritis, which is a major cause of disability among the elderly, is typically selected from multidisciplinary options, including complementary and alternative medicine. Moxibustion has been used in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis in Korea to reduce pain and improve physical activity. However, there is no sufficient evidence of its effectiveness, and it cannot therefore be widely recommended for treating knee osteoarthritis. We designed a randomised controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness, safety, cost-effectiveness, and qualitative characteristics of moxibustion treatment of knee osteoarthritis compared to usual care.
This is a protocol for a multicentre, pragmatic, randomised, assessor-blinded, controlled, parallel-group study. A total of 212 participants will be assigned to the moxibustion group (n = 106) and the usual care group (n = 106) at 4 clinical research centres. The participants assigned to the moxibustion group will receive moxibustion treatment of the affected knee(s) at 6 standard acupuncture points (ST36, ST35, ST34, SP9, Ex-LE04, and SP10) 3 times per week for 4 weeks (a total of 12 sessions). Participants in the usual care group will not receive moxibustion treatment during the study period. Follow-up will be performed on the 5th and 13th weeks after random allocation. Both groups will be allowed to use any type of treatment, including surgery, conventional medication, physical treatment, acupuncture, herbal medicine, over-the-counter drugs, and other active treatments. Educational material that explains knee osteoarthritis, the current management options, and self-exercise will be provided to each group. The global scale of the Korean Western Ontario and McMaster Osteoarthritis Index (K-WOMAC) will be the primary outcome measurement used in this study. Other subscales (pain, stiffness, and function) of the K-WOMAC, the Short-Form 36v2 Health Survey, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Physical Function test, Patient Global Assessment, and the Pain Numerical Rating Scale will be used as outcome variables to evaluate the effectiveness of moxibustion. Safety will be assessed at every visit. In addition, an economic evaluation and a qualitative study will be conducted as a mixed-methods approach.
This trial may contribute to developing evidence for the effectiveness and safety of moxibustion for treating knee osteoarthritis.
Trial registration
Trial registration number: KCT0000130
PMCID: PMC3605252  PMID: 23497032
11.  Comparing the effects of individualized, standard, sham and no acupuncture in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:129.
Acupuncture is an effective yet complex therapy, integrating syndrome differentiation, selection of appropriate acupoints and skillful needling techniques. Clinicians carefully tailor acupuncture treatment to each patient. However, most clinical trials of acupuncture have been based on a standardized formula of points for every patient without properly accounting for individualdifferences and, as a result, have not been reflective of the true efficacy of clinical practice. To determine the efficacy of meridian-based syndrome differentiation and Sa-am acupuncture, we have designed a simple pragmatic trial providing individualized treatments while working within a general framework.
The study is designed to be a parallel, patient- and assessor-blind, randomized controlled trial (RCT). A total of250 patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) will be recruited from two independent hospitals, Semyung University Oriental Medicine Hospital in Chung-ju and Dongguk University Oriental Hospital in Ilsan, South Korea. Patients will be randomly allocated into four treatment groups: 1. individualized, meridian-based syndrome differentiation and Sa-am acupuncture treatment;2. standard acupuncture treatment;3. sham acupuncture treatment; and 4. no acupuncture treatment. Patients in groups 1 to 3 will be treated by certified oriental medicine doctors twice a week for 6 weeks. The primary outcome measure will be the self-reported total Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) score change. The trial will also include secondary outcome measures.
This trial is designed to determine the efficacy of individualized acupuncture treatment in patients with knee OA by comparing the differences between individualized, standard, sham and no acupuncture treatments. The results of this trial may validate the efficacy of individualized acupuncture therapy, encouraging its widespread use.
Trial registration NCT01569230
PMCID: PMC3663829  PMID: 23782709
Acupuncture; Syndrome differentiation; Sa-am acupuncture; Individualized treatment; Knee osteoarthritis; RCT
12.  Individually integrated traditional chinese medicine approach in the management of knee osteoarthritis: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2011;12:160.
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is considered a major public health issue causing chronic disability worldwide with the increasing number of aging people. In China and increasingly worldwide, many sufferers with knee OA are using complementary and alternative medicine including herbal drug, herbal patch, acupuncture and Tuina etc., to alleviate their symptoms. However, evidence gathered from systematic reviews or randomized controlled trials (RCT) has only validated acupuncture for the management of osteoarthritic pain. Moreover, such Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) methods above are commonly used in an integrative way. This trial is aimed to compare the efficacy of an individually integrated TCM approach in the management of knee OA with other single treatments as parallel randomized controls.
Five teaching hospitals will participate in this randomized controlled trial. 500 participants, 100 in each hospital, will be randomly assigned to receive oral administration of a Chinese herbal drug (counter osteophytes capsule), topical use of a Chinese herbal patch (Fufnag Zijin patch), acupuncture, Tuina and the individually integrated TCM approach. The individually integrated TCM approach consists of basic treatment of oral counter osteophytes capsule, variable use of Tuina, acupuncture and a herbal patch based on the severity of the patient's symptoms.
The interventions are given for a period of 4 weeks. The primary outcome measure is the self-reported total score using the Western Ontario McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). Secondary outcome measures include patient and investigator global assessment of response to treatment, patient and investigator global assessment of OA condition, WOMAC pain, stiffness, and physical function subscales, short-form 36 (SF-36) and TCM assessment of OA condition measured by syndromes questionnaire. Mixed models and sensitivity analysis will be used for the statistical analysis.
The trial is designed to test the hypothesis that an individually integrated TCM approach is more effective than four treatment modalities used separately. The major limitation of this study is lack of placebo control and of double blinding.
Trial Registration
Chinese Cochrane Center ChiCTR-TRC-00000176
PMCID: PMC3141532  PMID: 21696615
13.  Acupuncture in acute herpes zoster pain therapy (ACUZoster) – design and protocol of a randomised controlled trial 
Acute herpes zoster is a prevalent condition. One of its major symptoms is pain, which can highly influence patient's quality of life. Pain therapy is limited. Acupuncture is supposed to soften neuropathic pain conditions and might therefore act as a therapeutic alternative. Objective of the present study is to investigate whether a 4 week semi-standardised acupuncture is non-inferior to sham laser acupuncture and the anticonvulsive drug gabapentine in the treatment of pain associated with herpes zoster.
Three-armed, randomised, placebo-controlled trial with a total follow-up time of 6 months. Up to estimated 336 patients (interim analyses) with acute herpes zoster pain (VAS > 30 mm) will be randomised to one of three groups (a) semi-standardised acupuncture (168 patients); (b) gabapentine with individualised dosage between 900–3600 mg/d (84 patients); (c) sham laser acupuncture. Intervention takes place over 4 weeks, all patients will receive analgesic therapy (non-opioid analgesics: metamizol or paracetamol and opioids: tramadol or morphine). Therapy phase includes 4 weeks in which group (a) and (c) consist of 12 sessions per patient, (b) visits depend on patients needs. Main outcome measure is to assess the alteration of pain intensity before and 1 week after treatment sessions (visual analogue scale VAS 0–100 mm). Secondary outcome measure are: alteration of pain intensity and frequency of pain attacks; alteration of different aspects of pain evaluated by standardised pain questionnaires (NPI, PDI, SES); effects on quality of life (SF 36); analgesic demand; alteration of sensoric perception by systematic quantitative sensory testing (QST); incidence of postherpetic neuralgia; side effects and cost effectiveness. Credibility of treatments will be assessed.
This study is the first large-scale randomised placebo controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture compared to gabapentine and sham treatment and will provide valuable new information about the clinical and physiological effects of acupuncture and gabapentine in the treatment of acute herpes zoster pain. The study has been pragmatically designed to ensure that the study findings can be implemented into clinical practice if acupuncture can be shown to be an effective treatment strategy in acute herpes zoster pain.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2739152  PMID: 19674449
14.  A Randomized Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Effects of Patient-Provider Communication 
Arthritis care & research  2010;62(9):1229-1236.
There is conflicting evidence on the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCA), and the role of placebo effects elicited by acupuncturists’ behavior has not been elucidated. We conducted a 3-month randomized clinical trial in patients with knee osteoarthritis to compare the efficacy of TCA to sham acupuncture, and examine the effects of acupuncturists’ communication style.
Acupuncturists were trained to interact in one of two communication styles: ‘high’ or ‘neutral’ expectations. Patients were randomized to one of 3 groups: waiting list, ‘high’ or ‘neutral’, and nested within style, TCA or sham acupuncture over 6 weeks. Sham acupuncture was performed in non-meridian points, with shallow needles and minimal stimulation. Primary outcome measures were: Joint-specific Multidimensional Assessment of Pain (J-MAP), Western Ontario McMaster Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), and satisfaction.
455 patients who received treatment (TCA or sham) and 72 controls were included. No statistically significant differences were observed between TCA or sham acupuncture, but both groups had significant reductions in J-MAP and WOMAC pain compared to the waiting group (-1.1, -1.0, and -0.1, p<0.001; -13.7, -14, -1.7, p<0.001). Statistically significant differences were observed in J-MAP pain reduction and satisfaction, favoring the ‘high’ expectations group. Fifty-two percent and 43% in the TCA and sham groups thought they had received TCA (kappa=0.05), suggesting successful blinding.
TCA was not superior to sham acupuncture. However, acupuncturists’ style had significant effects on pain reduction and satisfaction, suggesting that the analgesic benefits of acupuncture can be partially mediated through placebo effects related to the acupuncturist's behavior.
PMCID: PMC3651275  PMID: 20506122
15.  The Status and Future of Acupuncture Clinical Research 
On November 8–9, 2007, the Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR) hosted an international conference to mark the tenth anniversary of the landmark National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture. More than 300 acupuncture researchers, practitioners, students, funding agency personnel, and health policy analysts from 20 countries attended the SAR meeting held at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. This paper summarizes important invited lectures in the area of clinical research. Specifically, included are: a review of the recently conducted German trials and observational studies on low-back pain (LBP), gonarthrosis, migraine, and tension-type headache (the Acupuncture Research Trials and the German Acupuncture Trials, plus observational studies); a systematic review of acupuncture treatment for knee osteoarthritis (OA); and an overview of acupuncture trials in neurologic conditions, LBP, women's health, psychiatric disorders, and functional bowel disorders. A summary of the use of acupuncture in cancer care is also provided. Researchers involved in the German trials concluded that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain, but the correct selection of acupuncture points seems to play a limited role; no conclusions could be drawn about the placebo aspect of acupuncture, due to the design of the studies. Overall, when compared to sham, acupuncture did not show a benefit in treating knee OA or LBP, but acupuncture was better than a wait-list control and standard of care, respectively. In women's health, acupuncture has been found to be beneficial for patients with premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, several pregnancy-related conditions, and nausea in females who have cancers. Evidence on moxibustion for breech presentation, induction of labor, and reduction of menopausal symptoms is still inconclusive. In mental health, evidence for acupuncture's efficacy in treating neurologic and functional bowel disorder is still inconclusive. For chronic cancer-related problems such as pain, acupuncture may work well in stand-alone clinics; however, for acute or treatment-related symptoms, integration of acupuncture care into a busy and complex clinical environment is unlikely, unless compelling evidence of a considerable patient benefit can be established.
PMCID: PMC3155101  PMID: 18803496
16.  Acupuncture in patients with tension-type headache: randomised controlled trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;331(7513):376-382.
Objective To investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture compared with minimal acupuncture and with no acupuncture in patients with tension-type headache.
Design Three armed randomised controlled multicentre trial.
Setting 28 outpatient centres in Germany.
Participants 270 patients (74% women, mean age 43 (SD 13) years) with episodic or chronic tension-type headache.
Interventions Acupuncture, minimal acupuncture (superficial needling at non-acupuncture points), or waiting list control. Acupuncture and minimal acupuncture were administered by specialised physicians and consisted of 12 sessions per patient over eight weeks.
Main outcome measure Difference in numbers of days with headache between the four weeks before randomisation and weeks 9-12 after randomisation, as recorded by participants in headache diaries.
Results The number of days with headache decreased by 7.2 (SD 6.5) days in the acupuncture group compared with 6.6 (SD 6.0) days in the minimal acupuncture group and 1.5 (SD 3.7) days in the waiting list group (difference: acupuncture v minimal acupuncture, 0.6 days, 95% confidence interval -1.5 to 2.6 days, P = 0.58; acupuncture v waiting list, 5.7 days, 3.9 to 7.5 days, P < 0.001). The proportion of responders (at least 50% reduction in days with headache) was 46% in the acupuncture group, 35% in the minimal acupuncture group, and 4% in the waiting list group.
Conclusions The acupuncture intervention investigated in this trial was more effective than no treatment but not significantly more effective than minimal acupuncture for the treatment of tension-type headache.
Trial registration number ISRCTN9737659.
PMCID: PMC1184247  PMID: 16055451
17.  Efficacy of acupuncture for chronic low back pain: protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2008;9:10.
Chronic back pain is a major public health problem and the primary reason patients seek acupuncture treatment. Therefore, an objective assessment of acupuncture efficacy is critical for making informed decisions about its appropriate role for patients with this common condition. This study addresses methodological shortcomings that have plagued previous studies evaluating acupuncture for chronic low back pain.
Methods and Design
A total of 640 participants (160 in each of four arms) between the ages of 18 and 70 years of age who have low back pain lasting at least 3 months will be recruited from integrated health care delivery systems in Seattle and Oakland. They will be randomized to one of two forms of Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) acupuncture needling (individualized or standardized), a "control" group (simulated acupuncture), or to continued usual medical care. Ten treatments will be provided over 7 weeks. Study participants and the "Diagnostician" acupuncturists who evaluate participants and propose individualized treatments will be masked to the acupuncture treatment actually assigned each participant. The "Therapist" acupuncturists providing the treatments will not be masked but will have limited verbal interaction with participants. The primary outcomes, standard measures of dysfunction and bothersomeness of low back pain, will be assessed at baseline, and after 8, 26, and 52 weeks by telephone interviewers masked to treatment assignment. General health status, satisfaction with back care, days of back-related disability, and use and costs of healthcare services for back pain will also be measured. The primary analysis comparing outcomes by randomized treatment assignment will be analysis of covariance adjusted for baseline value. For both primary outcome measures, this trial will have 99% power to detect the presence of a minimal clinically significant difference among all four treatment groups and over 80% power for most pairwise comparisons. Secondary analyses will compare the proportions of participants in each group that improve by a clinically meaningful amount.
Results of this trial will help clarify the value of acupuncture needling as a treatment for chronic low back pain.
Trial registration
Clinical NCT00065585.
PMCID: PMC2276474  PMID: 18307808
18.  Acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis 
Peripheral joint osteoarthritis is a major cause of pain and functional limitation. Few treatments are safe and effective.
To assess the effects of acupuncture for treating peripheral joint osteoarthritis.
Search strategy
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2008, Issue 1), MEDLINE, and EMBASE (both through December 2007), and scanned reference lists of articles.
Selection criteria
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing needle acupuncture with a sham, another active treatment, or a waiting list control group in people with osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, or hand.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information. We calculated standardized mean differences using the differences in improvements between groups.
Main results
Sixteen trials involving 3498 people were included. Twelve of the RCTs included only people with OA of the knee, 3 only OA of the hip, and 1 a mix of people with OA of the hip and/or knee. In comparison with a sham control, acupuncture showed statistically significant, short-term improvements in osteoarthritis pain (standardized mean difference -0.28, 95% confidence interval -0.45 to -0.11; 0.9 point greater improvement than sham on 20 point scale; absolute percent change 4.59%; relative percent change 10.32%; 9 trials; 1835 participants) and function (-0.28, -0.46 to -0.09; 2.7 point greater improvement on 68 point scale; absolute percent change 3.97%; relative percent change 8.63%); however, these pooled short-term benefits did not meet our predefined thresholds for clinical relevance (i.e. 1.3 points for pain; 3.57 points for function) and there was substantial statistical heterogeneity. Additionally, restriction to sham-controlled trials using shams judged most likely to adequately blind participants to treatment assignment (which were also the same shams judged most likely to have physiological activity), reduced heterogeneity and resulted in pooled short-term benefits of acupuncture that were smaller and non-significant. In comparison with sham acupuncture at the six-month follow-up, acupuncture showed borderline statistically significant, clinically irrelevant improvements in osteoarthritis pain (-0.10, -0.21 to 0.01; 0.4 point greater improvement than sham on 20 point scale; absolute percent change 1.81%; relative percent change 4.06%; 4 trials;1399 participants) and function (-0.11, -0.22 to 0.00; 1.2 point greater improvement than sham on 68 point scale; absolute percent change 1.79%; relative percent change 3.89%). In a secondary analysis versus a waiting list control, acupuncture was associated with statistically significant, clinically relevant short-term improvements in osteoarthritis pain (-0.96, -1.19 to -0.72; 14.5 point greater improvement than sham on 100 point scale; absolute percent change 14.5%; relative percent change 29.14%; 4 trials; 884 participants) and function (-0.89, -1.18 to -0.60; 13.0 point greater improvement than sham on 100 point scale; absolute percent change 13.0%; relative percent change 25.21%). In the head-on comparisons of acupuncture with the ‘supervised osteoarthritis education’ and the ‘physician consultation’ control groups, acupuncture was associated with clinically relevant short- and long-term improvements in pain and function. In the head on comparisons of acupuncture with ‘home exercises/advice leaflet’ and ‘supervised exercise’, acupuncture was associated with similar treatment effects as the controls. Acupuncture as an adjuvant to an exercise based physiotherapy program did not result in any greater improvements than the exercise program alone. Information on safety was reported in only 8 trials and even in these trials there was limited reporting and heterogeneous methods.
Authors' conclusions
Sham-controlled trials show statistically significant benefits; however, these benefits are small, do not meet our pre-defined thresholds for clinical relevance, and are probably due at least partially to placebo effects from incomplete blinding. Waiting list-controlled trials of acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis suggest statistically significant and clinically relevant benefits, much of which may be due to expectation or placebo effects.
PMCID: PMC3169099  PMID: 20091527
Acupuncture Therapy [*methods]; Arthralgia [therapy]; Osteoarthritis, Hip [*therapy]; Osteoarthritis, Knee [*therapy]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Recovery of Function; Humans
19.  Acupuncture for lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow): study protocol for a randomized, practitioner-assessor blinded, controlled pilot clinical trial 
Trials  2013;14:174.
Lateral epicondylitis is the most frequent cause of pain around the elbow joint. It causes pain in the region of the elbow joint and results in dysfunction of the elbow and deterioration of the quality of life. The purpose of this study is to compare the effects of ipsilateral acupuncture, contralateral acupuncture and sham acupuncture on lateral epicondylitis.
Forty-five subjects with lateral epicondylitis will be randomized into three groups: the ipsilateral acupuncture group, contralateral acupuncture group and the sham acupuncture group. The inclusion criteria will be as follows: (1) age between 19 and 65 years with pain due to one-sided lateral epicondylitis that persisted for at least four weeks, (2) with tenderness on pressure limited to regions around the elbow joint, (3) complaining of pain during resistive extension of the middle finger or the wrist, (4) with average pain of NRS 4 or higher during the last one week at a screening visit and (5) voluntarily agree to this study and sign a written consent. Acupuncture treatment will be given 10 times in total for 4 weeks to all groups. Follow up observations will be conducted after the completion of the treatment, 8 weeks and 12 weeks after the random assignment. Ipsilateral acupuncture group and contralateral acupuncture group will receive acupuncture on LI4, TE5, LI10, LI11, LU5, LI12 and two Ashi points. The sham acupuncture group will receive treatment on acupuncture points not related to the lateral epicondylitis using a non-invasive method. The needles will be maintained for 20 minutes. The primary outcome will be differences in the visual analogue scale (VAS) for elbow pain between the groups. The secondary outcome will be differences in patient-rated tennis elbow evaluation (PRTEE), pain-free/maximum grip strength (Dynamometer), pressure pain threshold, clinically relevant improvement, patient global assessment, and the EQ-5D. The data will be analyzed with the paired t-test and ANCOVA (P <0.05).
The results of this study will allow evaluation of contralateral acupuncture from two aspects. First, if the contralateral acupuncture shows the effects similar to ipsilateral acupuncture, this will establish clinical basis for contralateral acupuncture. Second, if the effects of contralateral acupuncture are not comparable to the effects of ipsilateral acupuncture, but are shown to be similar to the effects of the sham acupuncture, we can establish the basis for using the same acupoints of the unaffected side as a control in acupuncture clinical studies.
Trial registration
This trial has been registered with the ‘Clinical Research Information Service (CRIS)’, Republic of Korea: KCT0000628.
PMCID: PMC3685553  PMID: 23768129
Acupuncture; Tennis elbow; Epicondylitis
20.  Characteristics of Acupuncture Treatment Associated with Outcome: An Individual Patient Meta-Analysis of 17,922 Patients with Chronic Pain in Randomised Controlled Trials  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77438.
Recent evidence shows that acupuncture is effective for chronic pain. However we do not know whether there are characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists that are associated with better or worse outcomes.
An existing dataset, developed by the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, included 29 trials of acupuncture for chronic pain with individual data involving 17,922 patients. The available data on characteristics of acupuncture included style of acupuncture, point prescription, location of needles, use of electrical stimulation and moxibustion, number, frequency and duration of sessions, number of needles used and acupuncturist experience. We used random-effects meta-regression to test the effect of each characteristic on the main effect estimate of pain. Where sufficient patient-level data were available, we conducted patient-level analyses.
When comparing acupuncture to sham controls, there was little evidence that the effects of acupuncture on pain were modified by any of the acupuncture characteristics evaluated, including style of acupuncture, the number or placement of needles, the number, frequency or duration of sessions, patient-practitioner interactions and the experience of the acupuncturist. When comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, there was little evidence that these characteristics modified the effect of acupuncture, except better pain outcomes were observed when more needles were used (p=0.010) and, from patient level analysis involving a sub-set of five trials, when a higher number of acupuncture treatment sessions were provided (p<0.001).
There was little evidence that different characteristics of acupuncture or acupuncturists modified the effect of treatment on pain outcomes. Increased number of needles and more sessions appear to be associated with better outcomes when comparing acupuncture to non-acupuncture controls, suggesting that dose is important. Potential confounders include differences in control group and sample size between trials. Trials to evaluate potentially small differences in outcome associated with different acupuncture characteristics are likely to require large sample sizes.
PMCID: PMC3795671  PMID: 24146995
21.  A Longitudinal Study of the Reliability of Acupuncture Deqi Sensations in Knee Osteoarthritis 
Deqi is one of the core concepts in acupuncture theory and encompasses a range of sensations. In this study, we used the MGH Acupuncture Sensation Scale (MASS) to measure and assess the reliability of the sensations evoked by acupuncture needle stimulation in a longitudinal clinical trial on knee osteoarthritis (OA) patients. The Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) was used as the clinical outcome. Thirty OA patients were randomized into one of three groups (high dose, low dose, and sham acupuncture) for 4 weeks. We found that, compared with sham acupuncture, real acupuncture (combining high and low doses) produced significant improvement in knee pain (P = .025) and function in sport (P = .049). Intraclass correlation analysis showed that patients reliably rated 11 of the 12 acupuncture sensations listed on the MASS and that heaviness was rated most consistently. Overall perceived sensation (MASS Index) (P = .014), ratings of soreness (P = .002), and aching (P = .002) differed significantly across acupuncture groups. Compared to sham acupuncture, real acupuncture reliably evoked stronger deqi sensations and led to better clinical outcomes when measured in a chronic pain population. Our findings highlight the MASS as a useful tool for measuring deqi in acupuncture research.
PMCID: PMC3713327  PMID: 23935656
22.  Safety and Efficacy of Acupuncture in Children A Review of the Evidence 
Acupuncture has been used therapeutically in China for thousands of years and is growing in prominence in Europe and the United States. In a recent review of complementary and alternative medicine use in the US population, an estimated 2.1 million people or 1.1% of the population sought acupuncture care during the past 12 months. Four percent of the US population used acupuncture at any time in their lives. We reviewed 31 different published journal articles, including 23 randomized controlled clinical trials and 8 meta-analysis/systematic reviews. We found evidence of some efficacy and low risk associated with acupuncture in pediatrics. From all the conditions we reviewed, the most extensive research has looked into acupuncture’s role in managing postoperative and chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting. Postoperatively, there is far more evidence of acupuncture’s efficacy for pediatrics than for children treated with chemotherapy. Acupuncture seems to be most effective in preventing postoperative induced nausea in children. For adults, research shows that acupuncture can inhibit chemotherapy-related acute vomiting, but conclusions about its effects in pediatrics cannot be made on the basis of the available published clinical trials data to date. Besides nausea and vomiting, research conducted in pain has yielded the most convincing results on acupuncture efficacy. Musculoskeletal and cancer-related pain commonly affectss children and adults, but unfortunately, mostly adult studies have been conducted thus far. Because the manifestations of pain can be different in children than in adults, data cannot be extrapolated from adult research. Systematic reviews have shown that existing data often lack adequate control groups and sample sizes. Vas et al, Alimi et al, and Mehling et al demonstrated some relief for adults treated with acupuncture but we could not find any well-conducted randomized controlled studies that looked at pediatrics and acupuncture exclusively. Pain is often unresolved from drug therapy, thus there is a need for more studies in this setting. For seasonal allergic rhinitis, we reviewed studies conducted by Ng et al and Xue et al in children and adults, respectively. Both populations showed some relief of symptoms through acupuncture, but questions remain about treatment logistics. Additionally, there are limited indications that acupuncture may help cure children afflicted with nocturnal enuresis. Systematic reviews show that current published trials have suffered from low trial quality, including small sample sizes. Other areas of pediatric afflictions we reviewed that suffer from lack of research include asthma, other neurologic conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and addiction. Acupuncture has become a dominant complementary and alternative modality in clinical practice today, but its associated risk has been questioned. The National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement states “one of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted procedures for the same conditions.” A review of serious adverse events by White et al found the risk of a major complication occurring to have an incidence between 1:10,000 and 1:100,000, which is considered “very low.” Another study found that the risk of a serious adverse event occurring from acupuncture therapy is the same as taking penicillin. The safety of acupuncture is a serious concern, particularly in pediatrics. Because acupuncture’s mechanism is not known, the use of needles in children becomes questionable. For example, acupoints on the vertex of infants should not be needled when the fontanel is not closed. It is also advisable to apply few needles or delay treatment to the children who have overeaten, are overfatigued, or are very weak. Through our review of pediatric adverse events, we found a 1.55 risk of adverse events occurring in 100 treatments of acupuncture that coincides with the low risk detailed in the studies mentioned previously. The actual risk to an individual patient is hard to determine because certain patients, such as an immunosuppressed patient, can be predisposed to an increased risk, acupuncturist’s qualifications differ, and practices vary in certain parts of the world. Nevertheless, it seems acupuncture is a safe complementary/alternative medicine modality for pediatric patients on the basis of the data we reviewed.
PMCID: PMC2518962  PMID: 18525459
acupuncture; pediatrics; review; side effects
23.  Acupuncture for menopausal vasomotor symptoms: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:224.
Hot flushes and night sweats (vasomotor symptoms) are common menopausal symptoms, often causing distress, sleep deprivation and reduced quality of life. Although hormone replacement therapy is an effective treatment, there are concerns about serious adverse events. Non-hormonal pharmacological therapies are less effective and can also cause adverse effects. Complementary therapies, including acupuncture, are commonly used for menopausal vasomotor symptoms. While the evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating vasomotor symptoms is inconclusive, acupuncture has a low risk of adverse effects, and two small studies suggest it may be more effective than non-insertive sham acupuncture. Our objective is to assess the efficacy of needle acupuncture in improving hot flush severity and frequency in menopausal women. Our current study design is informed by methods tested in a pilot study.
This is a stratified, parallel, randomised sham-controlled trial with equal allocation of participants to two trial groups. We are recruiting 360 menopausal women experiencing a minimum average of seven moderate hot flushes a day over a seven-day period and who meet diagnostic criteria for the Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis of Kidney Yin deficiency. Exclusion criteria include breast cancer, surgical menopause, and current hormone replacement therapy use. Eligible women are randomised to receive either true needle acupuncture or sham acupuncture with non-insertive (blunt) needles for ten treatments over eight weeks. Participants are blinded to treatment allocation. Interventions are provided by Chinese medicine acupuncturists who have received specific training on trial procedures. The primary outcome measure is hot flush score, assessed using the validated Hot Flush Diary. Secondary outcome measures include health-related quality of life, anxiety and depression symptoms, credibility of the sham treatment, expectancy and beliefs about acupuncture, and adverse events. Participants will be analysed in the groups in which they were randomised using an intention-to-treat analysis strategy.
Results from this trial will significantly add to the current body of evidence on the role of acupuncture for vasomotor symptoms. If found to be effective and safe, acupuncture will be a valuable additional treatment option for women who experience menopausal vasomotor symptoms.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12611000393954 11/02/2009.
PMCID: PMC4066294  PMID: 24925094
Acupuncture; Complementary medicine; Menopause; Hot flashes; Vasomotor symptoms; Quality of life; Placebo
24.  Acupuncture in practice: mapping the providers, the patients and the settings in a national cross-sectional survey 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000456.
There is relatively limited knowledge about the practitioners who provide acupuncture treatment within the UK, what conditions patients consult for and the treatment provided.
To characterise the conditions treated and by whom, to examine characteristics of the treatment and to explore trends over time.
A cross-sectional survey of the UK acupuncture practitioners was conducted; 800 practitioners were selected by computer-generated randomisation sequences from the four major UK-based professional associations. Data collected on the practitioners included demographic details, association membership, statutorily regulated status, practice setting, style of acupuncture, diagnostic methods and needle response sought. Practitioners recorded details of their 10 most recent patients, including demographic details, primary reason for consulting and lifestyle advice provided.
330 practitioners responded comprising doctors (29%) physiotherapists (29%), nurses (15%) and independent acupuncturists (27%): 62% were women with median age of 48 years. The majority (68%) practiced in independent settings and 42% practiced within the National Health Service. Patients most commonly consulted for low back, neck, shoulder and knee pain, as well as headaches and migraine. Treatment for infertility by independent acupuncturists was found to have increased fivefold in 10 years.
Acupuncture provides a substantial contribution to the healthcare of the UK, with an estimated 4 million sessions provided annually. The primary complaints for which patients consult reflect the growing evidence base on acupuncture for these conditions. These data provide a basis for decision-making regarding policy and practice.
Article summary
Article focus
This survey provides an up-to-date overview on the current state of provision of acupuncture in the UK, including information on diagnostic practices and lifestyle advice provided to patients.
Key messages
An estimated 4 million acupuncture sessions were provided in 2009 in the UK with approximately two-thirds of this provision outside the National Health Service.
Most practitioners in the four major professional associations have backgrounds as doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and independent acupuncturists.
Consultation rates were highest for musculoskeletal conditions, commonly back, shoulder, neck and knee pain, and neurological conditions, primarily headache and migraine.
Strengths and limitations
Robust survey methods were used to limit selection bias; practitioners who provided our data were selected through a randomisation process.
There is a potential risk of response bias; however, comparisons to earlier reports suggest that our results are reasonably representative of the UK and the USA populations.
The findings are consistent with the current evidence base on clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture.
PMCID: PMC3278493  PMID: 22240649
25.  The optimized acupuncture treatment for neck pain caused by cervical spondylosis: a study protocol of a multicentre randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2012;13:107.
Neck pain is one of the chief symptoms of cervical spondylosis (CS). Acupuncture is a well-accepted and widely used complementary therapy for the management of neck pain caused by CS. In this paper, we present a randomized controlled trial protocol evaluating the use of acupuncture for CS neck pain, comparing the effects of the optimized acupuncture therapy in real practice compared with sham and shallow acupuncture.
This trial uses a multicentre, parallel-group, randomized, sham acupuncture and shallow acupuncture, controlled single-blind design. Nine hospitals are involved as trial centres. 945 patients who meet inclusion criteria are randomly assigned to receive optimized acupuncture therapy, sham acupuncture or shallow acupuncture by a computerized central randomization system. The interventions past for 4 weeks with eight to ten treatments in total. The group allocations and interventions are concealed to patients and statisticians. The Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire (NPQ) is used as the primary outcome measure, and the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) and The Short Form (36) Health Survey (SF-36) are applied as secondary outcome measures. The evaluation is performed at baseline, at the end of the intervention, and at the end of the first month and the third month during follow-up. The statistical analyses will include baseline data comparison and repeated measures of analysis of variance (ANOVA) for primary and secondary outcomes of group and time differences. Adverse events (AEs) will be reported if they occur.
This trial is a multicentre randomized control trial (RCT) on the efficacy of acupuncture for CS neck pain and has a large sample size and central randomization in China. It will strictly follow the CONSORT statement and STRICTA extension guideline to report high-quality study results. By setting the control groups as sham and shallow acupuncture, this study attempts to reveal the effects of real acupuncture versus placebo or non-classic acupuncture treatment and evaluate whether classic Chinese medical acupuncture is effective on CS neck pain. This study will provide evidence for the effects of acupuncture on CS neck pain.
Trial Registration
Chinese Clinical Trial Registry: ChiCTR-TRC-00000184.
PMCID: PMC3460740  PMID: 22776567
Acupuncture; Cervical spondylosis; Neck pain

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