Studies have suggested that benefits of acupuncture which helps in relieving chronic back, shoulder and joint pain are more pronounced due to placebo effect.
On analyzing 29 earlier studies, people treated with acupuncture reported greater pain relief compared to those who didn't. But, patients treated with sham or fake acupuncture in which the needles did not stick into the skin got very limited relief.
Andrew Vickers from the memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York who led the study said that since a doctor attending a patient in pain can choose from many options like medications, physical or talk therapy, their action would be justified if the patient is advised to undertake acupuncture for pain relief.
Some doctors regard acupuncture as an alternate or add-on therapy for standard treatment while others recommend it more for helping patients in believing that their treatment will help them rid the pain.
Almost 18,000 patients who suffered back and neck pain, shoulder pain, chronic headaches or joint pain caused due to osteoarthritis participated in the study conducted in US and Europe.Patients were grouped into three categories, namely; patients who underwent acupuncture, fake acupuncture and no acupuncture.
On an average, people treated with acupuncture reported of modest improvement compared to those who underwent sham or no treatment. Almost 50 percent patients who undertook acupuncture reported reduction in the symptoms to lesser than half compared to 43 percent of those treated with sham treatment and 30 percent with no treatment.
Jongbae Park, head of Asian Medicine and Acupuncture at the University of North Carolina at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine said that most patients seek acupuncture when traditional treatments fail to relieve their pain. He said that patients with chronic pain do not usually ask for acupuncture as their first approach to treat the condition.
Park, who was not involved in the study said that acupuncture does not treat the pain. Instead, it heals the underlying tissue injury causing the pain. Vickers said that patients should undertake acupuncture only from licensed and qualified acupuncturists.