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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 628907, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/628907
Review Article

Placebo Acupuncture Devices: Considerations for Acupuncture Research

1Department of Neurology, Dongzhimen Hospital, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, No. 5 Haiyuncang, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100700, China
2Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02129, USA

Received 8 March 2013; Accepted 24 May 2013

Academic Editor: Lijun Bai

Copyright © 2013 Dan Zhu 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.

Abstract

Determining an appropriate control for use in acupuncture research remains one of the largest methodological challenges acupuncture researchers face. In general, acupuncture controls fall under one of two categories: (1) sham acupuncture, in which the skin is punctured with real acupuncture needles either fully at nonacupoint locations or shallowly at acupoint locations or both and (2) placebo acupuncture, which utilizes nonpenetrating acupuncture devices. In this study, we will focus on non-penetrating placebo acupuncture devices (blunted-needle and nonneedle devices) that are currently available in acupuncture research. We will describe each device and discuss each device’s validation and application in previous studies. In addition, we will outline the advantages and disadvantages of these devices and highlight how the differences among placebo devices can be used to isolate distinct components of acupuncture treatment and investigate their effects. We would like to emphasize that there is no single placebo device that can serve as the best control for all acupuncture studies; the choice of an acupuncture control should be determined by the specific aim of the study.