Acupuncture is an old Asian medical treatment method being used for centuries, it is the practice of inserting and stimulating needles at specific spots on the human body.

A recent NCCAM-funded study, employing individual patient data meta-analyses published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, provides the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain.

An estimated 3 million American adults get acupuncture treatments annually; still, there “remains considerable controversy about its value and effectiveness,” the researchers wrote in the study.

But they found that for back and neck pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis and shoulder pain, acupuncture works better than no treatment and better than “sham” acupuncture – done, for example, with needles inserted superficially or with needles that retract into the handles instead of going into the skin.

“Although the data indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo, the differences between true and sham acupuncture are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to therapeutic effects.”

“There is no known accepted mechanism for how the acupuncture works”, the researchers concluded.

Full Citation: Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. Published online September 10, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654.