Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine / 2011 / Article / Figbox 1

Review Article

Paradoxes in Acupuncture Research: Strategies for Moving Forward

Box 1

Summary of conclusions emerging from the 2007 Society for Acupuncture Research Conference [3, 4].
Clinical research:
 (i) There is mounting evidence from large-scale effectiveness trials that acupuncture treatments are superior to usual care
for some chronic pain conditions [39].
 (ii) However, overall, acupuncture treatments are, at most, only marginally more effective than sham acupuncture
[3, 41, 42].
 (iii) Sham acupuncture treatment, when compared to no treatment, is associated with larger effect sizes than
when conventional placebos are compared to no treatment [710].
 (iv) There is no conclusive evidence as to which individual components of acupuncture treatment are directly
associated with therapeutic benefit [3].
Basic research:
 (i) Basic science experiments, mostly in animals and healthy human subjects, show that acupuncture needling has
demonstrable physiological effects that are dependent on needling parameters, including needle insertion depth, type,
amplitude and frequency of needle stimulation [21, 40, 4348].
 (ii) In animal models, needling parameters appear related to therapeutically relevant outcomes, for example,
analgesia, antihyperalgesia, decreased tissue inflammation, decreased elevated blood pressure, and altered gastrointestinal
motility [19, 4951].
 (iii) The extent to which the precise needling location (e.g., acupuncture point versus nearby nonacupuncture point)
influences physiological responses remains unclear, although, in animal models, different effects have been demonstrated
when needles are inserted in different body regions (e.g., abdomen versus limb) [21, 52, 53].
(Citations refer to SAR conference summary articles, as well as more recent systematic reviews)