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Acupuncture and Chronic Pain: Answers from the East

Sep 18th, 2012
Staff Writer

Acupuncture is an ancient practice of placing thin needles into the skin or muscle || above places of discomfort and pain.The medical community of the west remains suspicious of acupuncture and other traditional medical practices. Insurance companies label them as “experimental” or “alternative” medicines, not covered by policy, but do these ancient practices deserve the derisive label?

Dr. Andrew Vickers of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, took a plunge into previously conducted research regarding the efficacy of an ancient art of visceral stimulation: acupuncture. Dr. Vickers and his team analyzed reports from almost 18,000 patients treated for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain.

What the doctors found was statistically significant, and consistent. Acupunctural treatment reduced pain scores in the back and neck by 23%, 16% for osteoarthritis and 15% for chronic headaches. Using sensitivity analysis that controlled for publication bias, the results remained robust to all varieties of scrutiny.

“Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option,” concluded the report. “We found acupuncture to be superior to both no-acupuncture control and sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain,” the authors commented.

For thousand of years, asian cultures have precisely placed pins in painful places to relieve recurring stress and anguish, according to the National Institute of Health. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine maintains a neutral stance on acupuncture’s effects, but their website does include a link to the recently published article from Dr. Vickers and the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.