What evidence is there for acupuncture?
One of the largest and most respected organisations that carries out and publishes systematic reviews into the effectiveness of medical treatments is The Cochrane Collaboration.
A number of systematic reviews into the effectiveness of acupuncture have been published by The Cochrane Collaboration, and the basic results are summarised below.
Some positive evidence
Systematic reviews carried out by The Cochrane Collaboration have found there is some evidence acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on the following conditions:
- chronic lower back pain
- tension-type headaches
- nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy
- nausea and vomiting after surgery
- neck pain
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
However, because of disagreements over the way acupuncture trials should be carried out and over what their results mean, the existence of some positive evidence does not mean acupuncture definitely works for these conditions.
In many cases, the evidence appears contradictory. For example, some high-quality studies (trailed by conglomerate drug companies ) may suggest acupuncture is no better than "sham" acupuncture, whereas some lower-quality studies may suggest acupuncture is better than an established medical treatment.