Some confusion as to the benefits of acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used for centuries, and yet its true benefits remain a hotly debated topic. A recent scientific review looked at data collected from over 3,000 patients with arthritis, migraine, lower-back pain and post-operative pain; the goal of the review was to try to synthesize information on the effectiveness of acupuncture that had been collected during various trials.

Acupuncture has been used for centuries, and yet its true benefits remain a hotly debated topic.

A recent scientific review looked at data collected from over 3,000 patients with arthritis, migraine, lower-back pain and post-operative pain; the goal of the review was to try to synthesize information on the effectiveness of acupuncture that had been collected during various trials.

The review concluded that there is no clinically significant difference between traditional acupuncture and a placebo, but that individuals who received a “sham” acupuncture treatment still experienced mild pain relief. A similar review, this one on the effectiveness of acupuncture in preventing headaches and migraines, for its part concluded that both traditional acupuncture and “placebos” were more effective than conventional painkillers for this indication.

During an acupuncture treatment, needles are inserted into specific points located on energy meridians. Many scientists do not endorse the concept of energy meridians. During “placebo” acupuncture treatments, which are used to provide a point of comparison with true acupuncture treatments, acupuncturists insert needles away from energy meridians. Detractors of clinical trials on acupuncture point out that needles are used for both true treatments and “placebos;” some therefore suggest that the simple act of inserting needles into the skin may result in benefits to the patients.

The review authors suggest that future clinical trials should try to identify how much of the therapeutic effect of acupuncture is due to a placebo effect and how much is a genuine physiological effect. The debate on the topic of acupuncture is far from resolved…

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