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Acupuncture for pain no better than placebo and not without harm
Date:3/24/2011

Philadelphia, PA, March 23, 2011 Although acupuncture is commonly used for pain control, doubts about its effectiveness and safety remain. Investigators from the Universities of Exeter & Plymouth (Exeter, UK) and the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (Daejeon, South Korea) critically evaluated systematic reviews of acupuncture as a treatment of pain in order to explore this question. Reporting in the April 2011 issue of PAIN, they conclude that numerous systematic reviews have generated little truly convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain, and serious adverse effects continue to be reported.

"Many systematic reviews of acupuncture for pain management are available, yet they only support few indications, and contradictions abound," commented lead investigator Professor Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, Laing Chair in Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, UK. "Acupuncture remains associated with serious adverse effects. One might argue that, in view of the popularity of acupuncture, the number of serious adverse effects is minute. We would counter, however, that even one avoidable adverse event is one too many. The key to making progress would be to train all acupuncturists to a high level of competency."

Researchers carefully identified and critically examined systematic reviews of acupuncture studies for pain relief and case reviews reporting adverse effects. Reviews were defined as systematic if they included an explicit Methods section describing the search strategy and inclusion/exclusion criteria. Systematic reviews had to focus on the effectiveness of any type of acupuncture for pain. Of the 266 articles found, 56 were categorized as acceptable systematic reviews.

The authors observe that recent results from high-quality randomized controlled trials have shown that various forms of acupuncture, including so-called "sham acupuncture," during which no needl
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Contact: Christine Rullo
painmedia@elsevier.com
215-239-3709
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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