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Acupuncture Works

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Many people with chronic pain swear by acupuncture, but skeptics of the ancient needle-based treatment have long claimed that it's little more than an elaborate placebo.

A new study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine appears to at least somewhat vindicate the acupuncture believers.

After re-analyzing data from 29 high-quality clinical trials dating back to the 1990s, researchers have concluded that the pain relief derived from acupuncture is partly real, in that it can't be ascribed entirely to the placebo effect.

The trials, which included roughly 18,000 people with chronic pain stemming from arthritis, headaches, or back and neck problems, all compared genuine acupuncture with one of two alternatives: treatment as usual, or "sham" acupuncture -- a counterfeit (i.e. placebo) version of the treatment in which needles are inserted unsystematically.

    Pain relief of 50% or more on a 100-point scale -- pain that drops from a 60 to a 30, say -- is a commonly used standard of effectiveness in pain research. By this measure, the study found, the effectiveness rates for real acupunture, sham acupuncture, and treatment as usual are 50%, 43%, and 30%, respectively.


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    Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 22:30
    Health & Life


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    Emergency medicine is not all about life and death situations and high-tech solutions. Our study, the largest of its kind in the world, shows using acupuncture in the emergency department can relieve acute pain.

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    Why acupuncture is giving sceptics the needle

    Acupuncture has been prescribed by half of Britain's doctors, but after 3,000 clinical trials its efficacy remains unproven. So is the NHS making a grave error in supporting this ancient treatment? 


     'If you can't come to a clear decision after 3,000 trials then surely that tells you something.' Photograph: Alina Vincent Photography, LLC/Getty Images


    You can't get crystal healing on the NHS. The Department of Health doesn't fund faith healing. And most doctors believe magnets are best stuck on fridges, not patients. But ask for a treatment in which an expert examines your tongue, smells your skin and tries to unblock the flow of life force running through your body with needles and the NHS will be happy to oblige.

    The government declines to say how much the health service spends on acupuncture each year, but it's estimated to be around £25m. The NHS rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), says that doctors can prescribe acupuncture for lower back pain and chronic tension headaches. The NHS Choices website says there is "reasonably good evidence" that acupuncture is effective at treating a range of conditions, including back pain, dental pain, headache, nausea after operations and osteoarthritis of the knee. And there are plenty of anecdotes from patients who swear it works...

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    Mainstream medicine has failed people with chronic back pain

    Lower back pain is one of the top reasons people go to the doctor in the US, and it affects 29 percent of adult Americans, according to surveys. It’s also the leading reason for missing work anywhere in the world. The US spends approximately $90 billion a year on back pain— more than the annual expenditures on high blood pressure, pregnancy and postpartum care, and depression — and that doesn’t include the estimated $10 to $20 billion in lost productivity related to back pain.


    Chronic nonspecific back pain is the kind the medical community is often terrible at treating. Many of the most popular treatments on offer from doctors for chronic nonspecific low back pain — bed restspinal surgeryopioid painkillerssteroid injections — have been proven ineffective in the majority of cases, and sometimes downright harmful.