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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011, Article ID 671043, 8 pages
Original Article

Acupuncture for Cancer-Induced Bone Pain?

1Faculty of Health, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK
2Airedale General Hospital, Keighley, UK
3Leeds Pallium Research Group, Leeds, UK
4Lancaster University, International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster, UK

Received 8 December 2009; Accepted 22 February 2010

Copyright © 2011 Carole A. Paley et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Bone pain is the most common type of pain in cancer. Bony metastases are common in advanced cancers, particularly in multiple myeloma, breast, prostate or lung cancer. Current pain-relieving strategies include the use of opioid-based analgesia, bisphosphonates and radiotherapy. Although patients experience some pain relief, these interventions may produce unacceptable side-effects which inevitably affect the quality of life. Acupuncture may represent a potentially valuable adjunct to existing strategies for pain relief and it is known to be relatively free of harmful side-effects. Although acupuncture is used in palliative care settings for all types of cancer pain the evidence-base is sparse and inconclusive and there is very little evidence to show its effectiveness in relieving cancer-induced bone pain (CIBP). The aim of this critical review is to consider the known physiological effects of acupuncture and discuss these in the context of the pathophysiology of malignant bone pain. The aim of future research should be to produce an effective protocol for treating CIBP with acupuncture based on a sound, evidence-based rationale. The physiological mechanisms presented in this review suggest that this is a realistic objective.