Acupuncture that meets criteria for adequate treatment is significantly superior to sham acupuncture and to no additional intervention in improving pain and function in patients with chronic knee pain. Due to the heterogeneity in the results, however, further research is required to confirm these findings and provide more information on long-term effects.
Many different styles of acupuncture practice exist, and lack of agreement on the optimal acupuncture treatment for any particular condition may mean that some patients do not receive the best treatment. This uncertainty also makes the negative results of sham controlled trials difficult to interpret. Unless we can be sure that both adequate acupuncture and an inactive sham were used in a particular trial, then that trial should not be interpreted as dismissing acupuncture for that condition. Acupuncture practice clearly involves much more than needling procedures, but there is a strong argument for elucidating the role of those needling procedure first. The components of acupuncture needling procedures have been described in the STRICTA document, but it is also clear that the patient's perception of needling is relevant for the outcome of treatment. We therefore recommend the concept of ‘dose’ of acupuncture needling, which should include both the stimulus given to the patient, and certain aspects of the patient's perceptions and response that are known to be linked to the subsequent therapeutic response. We propose the following definition of dose: the physical procedures applied in each session, using one or more needles, taking account of the patient's resulting perception (sensory, affective and cognitive) and other responses (including motor). The dose may be affected by the state of the patient (eg nervous, immune and endocrine systems); different doses may be required for different conditions. The constituents of an adequate dose can be established initially by clinical opinion and subsequently by empirical evidence from experimental studies, which may be either clinical or basic research studies. Systematic reviews which do not consider the adequacy of the acupuncture treatment may have unreliable conclusions. Out of 47 recent systematic reviews, only six have applied some criteria for adequacy. Five used a rating system or conducted a subgroup analysis, and one excluded studies from the analysis altogether if they did not meet criteria for adequacy. Research into what constitutes an adequate dose of acupuncture has long been neglected and is now urgent. Clinical studies that compare the effects of different treatment protocols are probably the most reliable source of evidence, and may also demonstrate a dose-response relationship.
Introduction The aim of this study was to evaluate the evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders by systematic review of the relevant research. Methods Searches of the major biomedical databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, ClNAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library) were conducted between February and July 2004. Specialist complementary medicine databases were also searched and efforts made to identify unpublished research. No language restrictions were imposed and translations were obtained where necessary. Study methodology was appraised and clinical commentaries obtained for studies reporting clinical outcomes. Results Twelve controlled trials were located, of which 10 were randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Four RCTs focused on acupuncture in generalised anxiety disorder or anxiety neurosis, while six focused on anxiety in the perioperative period. No studies were located on the use of acupuncture specifically for panic disorder, phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In generalised anxiety disorder or anxiety neurosis, it is difficult to interpret the findings of the studies of acupuncture because of the range of interventions against which acupuncture was compared. All trials reported positive findings but the reports lacked many basic methodological details. Reporting of the studies of perioperative anxiety was generally better and the initial indications are that acupuncture, specifically auricular acupuncture, is more effective than acupuncture at sham points and may be as effective as drug therapy in this situation. The results were, however, based on subjective measures and blinding could not be guaranteed. Conclusions Positive findings are reported for acupuncture in the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder or anxiety neurosis but there is currently insufficient research evidence for firm conclusions to be drawn. No trials of acupuncture for other anxiety disorders were located. There is some limited evidence in favour of auricular acupuncture in perioperative anxiety. Overall, the promising findings indicate that further research is warranted in the form of well designed, adequately powered studies.
Obesity is one of the leading health risk factors worldwide and is associated with several other risk factors and health problems including type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and malignancies. Current conventional therapeutic strategies for obesity cannot achieve adequate weight control in all patients, so complementary types of treatment are also performed. Acupuncture, one of the oldest healing practices, represents the most rapidly growing complementary therapy which is recognised by both the National Institutes of Health and the WHO. A previous review concluded that acupuncture was superior to lifestyle advice, to sham acupuncture and to conventional medication. In this narrative review, the possible mechanisms of actions and the results of recent experimental and clinical studies with different forms of acupuncture (eg, body, auricular, manual and electroacupuncture) are presented. In particular, the effects of acupuncture on anorexigenic and orexigenic peptides, insulin resistance, lipid metabolism and inflammatory markers are discussed. Both experimental and clinical current data suggest that acupuncture exerts beneficial effects on the mechanisms of obesity. Some data suggest that electroacupuncture may be more effective than manual acupuncture; however, the most effective frequency remains controversial. Combination of different forms of acupuncture with diet and exercise seems to be necessary for achieving and maintaining weight loss. Further prospective clinical trials are needed to establish the effectiveness of this complementary method for obesity treatment.
Acupuncture treatment and control group interventions in parallel-group randomised trials of acupuncture are not always precisely reported. In an attempt to improve standards, an international group of experienced acupuncturists and researchers devised a set of recommendations, designating them STRICTA: STandards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture. In a further consensus-building round, the editors of several journals helped redraft the recommendations. These follow the Consolidated Standards for Reporting Trials (CONSORT) format, acting as an extension of the CONSORT guidelines for the specific requirements of acupuncture studies. Participating journal editors are publishing the STRICTA recommendations and requesting prospective authors to adhere to them when preparing reports for publication. Other journals are invited to adopt these recommendations. The intended outcome is that interventions in controlled trials of acupuncture will be more adequately reported, thereby facilitating an improvement in critical appraisal, analysis and replication of trials.
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