Acupuncture for Pain

by John & Barbara Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

John and I thought we would share with you today some recent studies that have come out in the last few years on how acupuncture can help with pain relief. We have seen many patients over the years suffering from various types of painful conditions and we get very good results treating these conditions with a combination of acupuncture and craniosacral therapy. By combining acupuncture with craniosacral therapy we are able to effect energetic and physiological mobilization, fluid exchange, improved delivery of nutrients and removal of metabolic waste products in the affected areas which helps your body to heal naturally. Below are the results of 12 recent studies showing how acupuncture helps to relieve pain.

In this study seventy five randomized controlled trials (n = 11077) were included. Almost all of the studies investigated individuals experiencing chronic neck pain or chronic low back pain. The researchers found moderate evidence that acupuncture was more effective than sham-acupuncture in reducing pain immediately post-treatment for chronic neck pain and acute low back pain. (Yuan et al 2015)

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of electroacupuncture and acupuncture for myofascial pain of the upper trapezius and cervical range of motion, using SHAM acupuncture as control. Sixty women presenting at least one trigger point at the upper trapezius and local or referred pain for more than six months were randomized into electroacupuncture and acupuncture and SHAM groups. Electroacupuncture and acupuncture were effective in reducing the pain intensity compared with SHAM. (Aranha et al 2015)

The purpose of this study was to compare acupuncture treatment and medical treatment with antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on pain control, urinary symptoms, and quality of life of category IIIB chronic prostatitis-chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP-CPPS). In the acupuncture group, reduction of pain, urinary symptoms, quality of life, and total National Institutes of Health Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index score was higher compared with the medical group. However the treatment of CP-CPPS is challenging and difficult for the urologists. This clinical study showed that acupuncture treatment is a safe and effective treatment of category IIIB chronic prostatitis-chronic pelvic pain syndrome. ( Kucuk et al 2015)

Given the risks of opioid medications, nonpharmacological strategies should be considered for total joint replacement patients. In this study acupuncture was investigated as an adjunct therapy for postsurgical pain management in a total joint replacement program by examining which total hip and knee replacement patients elected to receive acupuncture and the effect of acupuncture on short-term pain. Our sample included 2,500 admissions of total hip and total knee replacement patients.  Average short-term pain reduction was 1.91 points (95% CI: 1.83, 1.99), a 45% reduction from the mean prepain score. Forty-one percent of patients reported moderate/severe pain prior to receiving acupuncture, while only 15% indicated moderate/severe pain after acupuncture. Acupuncture may be a viable adjunct to pharmacological approaches for pain management after total hip or total knee replacement. (Crespin et al 2015)

This study showed that acupuncture, core-stability exercises, and treadmill walking exercises were useful in relieving pain, increasing spinal range of movement, and improving the health of a patient with postsurgical lumbar disc herniation. (Ganiyu & Gujba 2015)

Acupuncture points stimulation is increasingly used for pain relief for chronic musculoskeletal pain. Commonly, a combination of local and distant points is used. In this systemic review local and distant point stimulation was more effective than their respective controls in pain reduction immediately after treatment. Subgroup analyses showed that, local tender point stimulation was more effective than local acupuncture points. However, subgroup analyses suggested that local tender points could be important in the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain for short-term pain relief. (Wong Lit Wan et al 2015)

This was a randomized, controlled, single-blinded study comparing conventional postoperative analgesic treatment with the same regime plus acupuncture to assess whether postoperative treatment of children aged 3-12 years undergoing tonsillectomy with acupuncture will reduce pain and to examine possible unwanted effects of this treatment. Sixty children were recruited and randomly divided into a study group and a control group. The results indicate that in the study group, there was less pain, less analgesic drug consumption, and higher patient/parent satisfaction with analgesic treatment scores. No adverse effects were recorded. Acupuncture, in addition to conventional analgesic treatment, is an effective treatment for posttonsillectomy pain. Acupuncture is safe and well received by children and their parents. (Gilbey et al 2015)

In this randomized study acupuncture was found effective for reducing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Limitations included small sample size and inability to parse specific treatment mechanisms. Larger multisite trials with longer follow-up, comparisons to standard PTSD treatments, and assessments of treatment acceptability are needed. Acupuncture is a novel therapeutic option that may help to improve population reach of PTSD treatment. (Engel et al 2014)

In this randomized, controlled, double-blind study acupuncture was proven effective in the immediate pain reduction in patients with fibromyalgia, with a quite significant effect size. (Stival et al 2014)

This was a case study of a 78 year old woman suffering from symptoms suspected to be due to Parkinson’s Disease (PD). She was treated with acupuncture based on the Chinese traditional medicine and electroacupuncture five times per week. After the 2-week treatment, the assessment for the symptoms was as follows; visual analogue scale (VAS) score of the leg pain was 16 mm (70 mm, before), Hamilton’s rating scales for depression (HAM-D) score was 9 (18, before), timed 3 m Up and Go took 20 steps in 30 sec (24 steps in 38 sec, before), and the Movement Disorder Society-sponsored revision of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS) Part 1 score was 13 (21, before). Autonomic symptoms, hot flashes and paroxysmal sweating, were also alleviated. Acupuncture may be a good treatment modality for nonmotor symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease. (Iseki et al 2014)

A prospective, randomised, parallel-group, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was performed in 80 men and women with acute non-specific low back pain who were randomly assigned to five acupuncture sessions (intervention group, n=40) and to five non-penetrating acupuncture sessions (sham group, n=40). Yamamoto’s new scalp acupuncture was more effective than sham treatment with regard to decrease in pain and anti-inflammatory intake as well as improving functional status and quality of life for patients with acute non-specific low back pain. (Hasegawa et al 2014)

One hundred and forty-three patients were analyzed in this prospective, randomized, controlled trial on the effectiveness and acceptance of acupuncture in patients with chronic low back pain. Acupuncture was highly accepted and had positive effects in patients with chronic low back pain. These results show that acupuncture can be an effective, well-tolerated therapy with no major adverse events. (Weiss et al 2013)


Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.


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