Acupuncture Effectively Treats Chronic Pain

Acupunture Integrative Medicine

Acupuncture Effectively Treats Chronic Pain

A Treatment Thousands of Years Old

Today in most Western cultures acupuncture is considered a new alternative medicine. Actually, acupuncture is a medical treatment that is more than 5,000 years old. Very basically, acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles, sometimes in conjunction with electrical stimulus, on the body's surface, in order to influence physiological functioning of the body. A simple search on for the terms "acupuncture" and "chronic pain" produces more than 1,200 results. But the conclusions drawn from the studies are inconsistent at best. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), wanting to identify positive studies, did an exhaustive search and found three reviews worth mentioning.

A Systematic Review from the NIH

The National Institutes of Health reviewed clinical studies investigating acupuncture and chronic pain. They pieced together the best reviews and published the results.1 Here’s what they found:
  • A 2012 analysis of data on participants in acupuncture studies looked at back and neck pain together and found that actual acupuncture was more helpful than either no acupuncture or simulated acupuncture.
  • A 2010 review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that acupuncture relieved low-back pain immediately after treatment but not over longer periods of time.
  • A 2008 systematic review of studies on acupuncture for low-back pain found strong evidence that combining acupuncture with usual care helps more than usual care alone. The same review also found strong evidence that there is no difference between the effects of actual and simulated acupuncture in people with low-back pain.
Based on these and earlier reviews, clinical practice guidelines issued by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians recommend acupuncture as one of several non-drug approaches physicians should consider when patients with chronic low-back pain do not respond to self-care practices. But missing from the collection of studies were ones conducted on older Americans. How might acupuncture help geriatric patients suffering from chronic pain?

Geriatric Patients Do Well with Acupuncture2

Analgesics and physical therapy are the preferred treatment for geriatric chronic pain. But for some elderly patients suffering from multiple medical and nutritional problems, treatment options with analgesics can be limited due to an increased risk of adverse effects and drug interactions. A group of researchers decided to study the effect of acupuncture on chronic back pain and knee pain in elderly people. The study included 34 geriatric patients who underwent 10 acupuncture sessions. Standard pain assessments were used to evaluate pain before and after treatment. The researchers found that back pain and knee pain scores were reduced significantly. These important results show that acupuncture should be considered in geriatric patients for reducing chronic pain.

Finding an Acupuncturist

The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) provides a listing of all NCCAOM certified and licensed acupuncturists. It’s important to find a certified and licensed acupuncturist due to the large number of sham acupuncturists who may not know what they are doing and probably just want your money. You can search the NCCAOM’s list of certified and licensed practitioners at


  2. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2014 Nov 5.

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