Scientific Evidence for Acupuncture


      A website called Evidence Based Acupuncture has a great overview of the scientific evidence for acupuncture. It's good to read because it provides an up-to-date perspective of the large amount of peer reviewed research, and also describes how acupuncture has been shown to work from a scientific (biochemical) perspective.

      Ever hear someone erroneously say that acupuncture is a pseudo-science, and that it only works sometimes due to placebo effect? Well, here is a research article on acupuncture for pain conditions, which was published in the American Journal of Pain in 2018. They did a meta analysis on 20,827 different patients who received acupuncture for varying pain conditions, and concluded that the modality is effective, with lasting results. They also found that the results are definitively above and beyond placebo effect.

      This next research article was pretty mind blowing to me when I first read it. It was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2016. They compared acupuncture against IV morphine for acute pain cases in 300 different patients. Acupuncture was 92% effective for pain relief, compared to morphine which was only 78% effective. Morphine is a very strong drug, so that's surprising! It took roughly 16 minutes for acupuncture to be effective, compared to taking roughly 28 minutes for morphine to kick in. Also, out of both groups, 89 experienced minor adverse effects...85 of them from the morphine, and 4 of them from the acupuncture. (An example of a minor adverse effect is bruising).

      Acupuncture doesn't only treat musculoskeletal issues. A 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has now found that acupuncture can be effective in treating chronic stable angina (chest pains associated with heart disease). When used in combination with Western medications, it showed an effect above taking medications alone, which was clearly greater than the placebo effect. Chinese Medicine practitioners and their patients know through their experience that this stuff works better than anything, but now we have multiple scientific studies showing it has a real effect.

I will continue to update this page as further high quality studies become available, and I personally have the time to review them. -Scott Schauland, RAc