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Needles being inserted into a person's skin
Acupuncture needles in a person's face

Acupuncture is an ancient kind of medical treatment developed in China about 5000 years ago. Thin metal needles are pushed into the body at certain places called "acupuncture points".[1] It is a form of alternative medicine,[2] and a key part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).[3] It uses the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang.[1]

Effectiveness[change | change source]

There is no general agreement as to whether acupuncture is effective. It is difficult to do good research on this issue.[4][5]

A 2014 review article said "researchers usually find that it generally does not matter where the needles are inserted, how often (that is, no dose-response effect is observed), or even if needles are actually inserted. In other words, 'sham' or 'placebo' acupuncture generally produces the same effects as 'real' acupuncture and, in some cases, does better".[6] A 2013 analysis found little evidence that the effectiveness of acupuncture on pain (compared to sham) was modified by the location of the needles, the number of needles used, the experience or technique of the practitioner, or by the circumstances of the sessions.[7]

Using the principles of "evidence-based medicine" (~ scientific research) to research acupuncture is controversial, and has produced different results.[8] Some research suggests acupuncture can alleviate pain but the majority of research suggests that acupuncture's effects are mainly due to placebo.[9] Evidence suggests that any benefits of acupuncture are short-lasting.[10] There is insufficient evidence to support use of acupuncture compared to mainstream medical treatments.[11] Acupuncture is not better than mainstream treatment in the long term.[12]

Operations using acupuncture[change | change source]

Chinese doctors have claimed to perform surgery with acupuncture as the only anaesthetic.[13] This is a claim which is difficult to test. In some cases at least, the claim has been fraudulent, because morphine, or other sedatives were delivered through a drip.[14][15] In 2006, a BBC documentary Alternative Medicine filmed a patient undergoing open heart surgery allegedly under acupuncture-induced anesthesia. It was later revealed that the patient had been given a cocktail of anesthetics.[16][17]

The present[change | change source]

Recently, acupuncture has begun to be used more frequently in the West.[1][13] In the United States acupuncture has often been used to help control pain and drug and alcohol addiction. It is also often used to treat headaches, asthma, and arthritis.[13] It is widely agreed that acupuncture treatment is safe when done by well-trained doctors using clean needles.[18][18]

Guidelines from the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is that "The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain, chronic tension-type headaches and migraine".[19]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "acupuncture (medicine) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  2. Berman, Brian et al 2010. Acupuncture for chronic low back pain. New England Journal of Medicine 363 (5): 454–461. [1]
  3. Liu, Gang et al 2013. Effects of painful stimulation and acupuncture on attention networks in healthy subjects. Behavioral and Brain Functions 9 (1): 23. Complete article:[2]
  4. White A.R. et al (International Acupuncture Research Forum) 2001. Clinical trials of acupuncture: consensus recommendations for optimal treatment, sham controls and blinding. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 9 (4): 237–245. [3]
  5. Witt, Claudia et al 2012. Effectiveness guidance document (EGD) for acupuncture research - a consensus document for conducting trials. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 12 (1), 148. [4]
  6. Gorski, David H. 2014. Integrative oncology: really the best of both worlds?. Nature Reviews Cancer. [5]
  7. MacPherson, Hugh et al (Acupuncture Trialists' Collaboration) 2013. 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 8 (10): e77438. [6]
  8. Ernst, E.; Pittler, MH; Wider, B; Boddy, K (2007). "Acupuncture: its evidence-base is changing". The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 35 (1): 21–25. doi:10.1142/S0192415X07004588 . PMID 17265547 .
  9. Ernst E. 2006. Acupuncture--a critical analysis. Journal of Internal Medicine 259 (2): 125–137. [7]
  10. Wang, Shu-Ming; Kain, Zeev N.; White, Paul F. (2008). "Acupuncture Analgesia: II. Clinical Considerations". Anesthesia & Analgesia 106 (2): 611–621. doi:10.1213/ane.0b013e318160644d . ISSN 0003-2999 . PMID 18227323 .
  11. Lee Goldman; Andrew I. Schafer (21 April 2015). Goldman-Cecil Medicine: Expert Consult - Online. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-0-323-32285-0 .
  12. Amezaga Urruela, Matxalen & Suarez-Almazor, Maria E. 2012. Acupuncture in the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Current Rheumatology Reports 14 (6): 589–597. [8]
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Acupuncture". The Kingfisher Children's Encyclopedia 1. (1994). Kingfisher Books. 6. Retrieved on 17 June 2010. 
  14. Keng H.C. & Tao N.H. 1985. The evaluation of acupuncture anesthesia must seek truth from facts. (Translated by P. U. Unschuld). In Medicine in China: a history of ideas. Unschuld P.U. (ed). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  15. Colquhoun D. & Novella S. 2013. Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo: the end of a myth. Anesthesia & Analgesia 116 (6): 1360–1363. [9]
  16. Simon Singh (26 March 2006). "A groundbreaking experiment ... or a sensationalized TV stunt?". The Guardian.
  17. Simon Singh (14 February 2006). "Did we really witness the 'amazing power' of acupuncture?". Daily Telegraph.
  18. 18.0 18.1 "The NIH Consensus Development Program: Acupuncture". Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  19. Acupuncture - Evidence. NICE 2014. [10]