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Acupuncture Relieves Chronic Pain

Acupuncture is generally recognized as having certain physiologic effects that can contribute to pain relief, but no plausible mechanism has yet been identified that support claims as to its long-term benefits for chronic pain. To provide more clarity about the effects of acupuncture on pain, Andrew J. Vickers, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, USA) and colleagues conducted an individual patient data meta-analysis based exclusively on high quality randomized trials. Included trials required pain of at least a month's duration, with the primary endpoint being assessed at least a month after acupuncture treatment began. The researchers were able to acquire the original raw data for 29 studies that included 17,922 patients. The team found a statistically significant benefit of acupuncture for relief of chronic pain due to a variety of causes, when compared with both sham controls and usual-care controls. Further, the pain relief was much greater when acupuncture was compared with usual care than when compared with the sham procedure, suggesting a role for a placebo effect. The study authors conclude that: “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.”