WHO Health Systems Library
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Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials
(87 pages)

Table of Contents
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction
close this folder1. General considerations
View the document1.1. Definition
View the document1.2. Need for evaluation
View the document1.3. Evaluation methodology
View the document1.4. Safety
View the document1.5. Availability and practicability
View the document1.6. Studies on therapeutic mechanisms
View the document1.7. Selection of clinical trial reports
Open this folder and view contents2. Review of clinical trial reports
View the document3. Diseases and disorders that can be treated with acupuncture
View the document4. Summary table of controlled clinical trials
View the documentReferences

1.2. Need for evaluation

Acupuncture originated in China many centuries ago and soon spread to Japan, the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in Asia. Acupuncture is widely used in health care systems in the countries of this region; it is officially recognized by governments and well received by the general public.

Although acupuncture was introduced to Europe as long ago as the early seventeenth century, scepticism about its effectiveness continues to exist in countries where modern Western medicine is the foundation of health care, especially in those where acupuncture has not yet been widely practised. People question whether acupuncture has a true therapeutic effect, or whether it works merely through the placebo effect, the power of suggestion, or the enthusiasm with which patients wish for a cure. There is therefore a need for scientific studies that evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture under controlled clinical conditions.

This publication reviews selected studies on controlled clinical trials. Some of these studies have provided incontrovertible scientific evidence that acupuncture is more successful than placebo treatments in certain conditions. For example, the proportion of chronic pain relieved by acupuncture is generally in the range 55-85%, which compares favourably with that of potent drugs (morphine helps in 70% of cases) and far outweighs the placebo effect (30-35%) (1-3). In addition, the mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia have been studied extensively since the late 1970s, revealing the role of neural and humoral factors.

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Last updated: May 4, 2012