CHRONIC PAIN AFFECTS MILLIONS WORLDWIDE.
Standard treatments involve physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs, however, these prove fruitless for many.
But recent research suggests acupuncture may be a valuable tool in fighting chronic pain.
Researchers analyzed data from 29 high-quality clinical trials including around 18,000 adults diagnosed with chronic pain in the neck, back, head or knee, who were treated with standard medical treatments, acupuncture or a combination of the two.
They found that using acupuncture in addition to standard medical interventions was associated with a notable reduction in headaches, migraines, neck and lower back pain. Reduced pain and reliance on anti-inflammatory medications was also linked with acupuncture.
Lead author Professor Hugh MacPherson says these results provide evidence that acupuncture provides more than just a placebo effect.
“There has been an increase in practitioners using acupuncture as an intervention. Approximately four million acupuncture treatments are provided a year in the UK [for example], but the evidence to show how clinically effective this form of treatment is has been limited.
“Our new data provides a significant step forward in treating chronic pain … because patients and health professionals can now make decisions on acupuncture with more confidence.”
Interestingly, the benefits of acupuncture also appeared to extend to depression, according to results of a separate trial conducted by the same research team.
Examining 755 patients with depression, the researchers observed that acupuncture used in conjunction with counseling significantly lowered the severity of depression. Importantly, these results remained for up to 12 months after the study.
“In the largest study of its kind, we have now provided a solid evidence base to show that not only can acupuncture and counseling bring patients out of an episode of depression, but it can keep the condition at bay for up to a year on average,” says Professor MacPherson.
It’s a finding he believes will hold promise for the large number of people which do not benefit from anti-depressant medications.
“The front-line treatment for depression in primary care usually involves antidepressants; however, they do not work well for more than half of patients.
“Not only is it more cost effective, but it reduces pain levels and improves mood levels, which could reduce over reliance on drugs that can sometimes result in unwanted side effects.”
The research was published in Programme Grants for Applied Research in 2017.
It's important to note that the benefits of acupuncture have been a subject of debate for many years, and this recent research highlights the possible benefits of acupuncture alongside, not in place of, conventional treatments. For individual advice, consult an appropriate health professional.