The effectiveness of Acupuncture for Chronic Pain, Headache & Nausea/Vomiting

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An Acupuncturist in action

An Acupuncturist in action

Complementary alternative medication (CAM) and treatments have received a lot of attention and acclaim within the past years. Many patients and practitioners flip to CAM as alternatives to avoid side effects of drug therapies. Of particular interest is the use of acupuncture as an alternative to standard medical treatment. This article discusses the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of Chronic Pain, Headache & Fibromyalgia and Nausea/Vomiting.

Acupuncture as treatment for Chronic Pain, Headache & Fibromyalgia

The results of a randomized trial, published in the Archives of internal medicine, demonstrated that, while we can't yet understand the precise mechanisms at work, patients suffering from chronic low back pain experience less back-related disfunction once being treated with standardized, individualized and even simulated acupuncture than with their usual care (1).

Another review by the Cochrane Collaboration, published in 2013, summarized the effects of acupuncture with and without electrical stimulation, as well as sham acupuncture, on various symptoms of fibromyalgia. Acupuncture was conjointly studied as an adjunct to pain medication and in place of antidepressants. Although viewed by the authors as comparatively small study, the research was overall encouraging in demonstrating improvement of symptoms once patients were treated with acupuncture with electrical stimulation. (2)

Other high-quality at random controlled trials involving individual patient data indicated that, in regards to osteoarthritis, and chronic headache, back, neck and shoulder pain, patients did experience relief once receiving acupuncture and thus it ought to be thought of as a real treatment choice.(3)

Use of Acupuncture on Nausea/Vomiting

Research has additionally been conducted in regards as to whether acupuncture, and variations of it, such as acupressure and electroacupuncture stimulation, are helpful in relieving nausea. A review by the Cochrane Collaboration of 40 randomised trials discussed the efficaciousness of stimulating the pressure point P6, on the inner wrist, in preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting. Multiple variations of acupuncture were studied and compared to the use of antiemetic drugs; overall the P6 point stimulation was found to be similar to antiemetic drugs with regard to effectiveness.(4)

Patients experiencing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting have more and more been offered acupuncture and acupressure as complementary treatment, and many studies have looked into the effectivity of those therapies.(5) These studies once more are examples of the validity of acupuncture, and how it can and ought to have a place alongside more standard treatment choices.

  • (1) Cherkin, Daniel C, Sherman, Karen J, Avins, Andrew L, Erro, Janet H, Ichikawa, Laura, Barlow, William E, Delaney, Kristin, Hawkes, Rene, Hamilton, Luisa, Pressman, Alice, Khalsa, Partap S, Deyo, Richard A. A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009; 169(9):858-866.
  • (2) Deare, JC, Zheng, Z, Xue, C.C.L., Liu, JP, Shang, J, Scott, SW, Littlejohn, G. Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD007070. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007070.pub2
  • (3) Vickers, AJ, Chronin, AM, Maschino, AC, Lewith, G, MacPherson, H, Foster, NE, Sherman, KJ, Witt, CM, Linde, K. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2012; 172(19):1444-1453.
  • (4) Fan L TY. Stimulation of the wrist acupuncture point P6 for preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009; Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003281. Retrieved from http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD003281/p6-acupoint-stimulation-prevents…
  • (5) Garcia, MK, McQuade, J, Haddad, R, Patel, S, Lee, R, Yang, P, Palmer, JL, Cohen., L. Systematic review of acupuncture in cancer care: a synthesis of the evidence. Journal of clinical oncology. 2013; (7):952-60.