Recent Research on Acupuncture

In a prospective, randomized, patient-blinded study involving 182 patients, treatment with ear (auricular) acupuncture – one of the microsystems of acupuncture – was found to significantly reduce anxiety prior to dental treatment (state anxiety scores reduced from 54.7 to 46.9), as compared to the effects of sham acupuncture. The authors state, “Auricular acupuncture could be an option for patients scheduled for dental treatment, who experience an uncomfortable degree of anxiety and request an acute intervention for their anxiety.”

“Auricular acupuncture effectively reduces state anxiety before dental treatment-a randomised controlled trial,” Michalek-Sauberer A, Gusenleitner E, et al, Clin Oral Investig, 2012 Jan 6
 In a multi-center, single-blinded, randomized, controlled trial involving 140 patients with migraine headaches (without aura), treatment with acupuncture was found to be more effective than treatment with flunarizine (pharmacological agent used in the treatment of migraines) in reducing the number of days of migraine attacks. Patients were randomized to receive one of two interventions: a) real acupuncture (3 times/week) plus a placebo given orally daily; b) sham acupuncture plus flunarizine daily. Subjects who received real acupuncture had better responder rates and fewer migraine days, as compared to those who received the drug therapy. No significant difference in VAS scores for pain and SF-36 scores for physical and mental health components were found. These results suggest that acupuncture may be a safe and effective method used to help prevent migraine headaches.


   “Efficacy of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis: a single-blinded, double-dummy, randomized controlled trial,” Wang LP, Zhang XZ, et al, Pain, 2011 May 24


Results of this study suggest that treatment with acupuncture may be effective for reducing infertility-related stress. In this study from Australia, researchers randomly divided infertile women into 2 groups: an acupuncture treatment group and a ‘wait list’ (control) group. Subjects (n=32) were women aged 20-45 years, with a diagnosis of infertility, or a history of unsuccessfully trying to conceive for 12 months or more. Subjects in the acupuncture group received six sessions over 8 weeks. Significant changes on two domains on the Fertility Problem Inventory with less social concern (mean difference [MD] -3.75, 95% confidence interval [CI] -7.58 to 0.84), and less relationship concern (MD -3.66) were found. There were also trends towards a reduction of infertility stress on other domains, and a trend towards improved self-efficacy (MD 11.9) and less anxiety (MD -2.54) in the acupuncture group compared with the wait-list control group. Women described the experience and impact of acupuncture as positive relating to a sense of relaxation and a changed perspective in relation to coping. Researchers conclude that acupuncture may be a useful intervention for women experiencing infertility-related stress.

“The Effect of Acupuncture on Psychosocial Outcomes for Women Experiencing Infertility: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial,” Smith CA, Ussher JM, et al, J Altern Complement Med, 2011 Oct 6

 In a randomized study involving 80 patients with primary dysmenorrhea who were followed over the course of 3 menstrual cycles, treatment with acupuncture prior to the menstrual period (“preconditioning acupuncture”) was found to significantly reduce symptoms and the duration of symptoms more effectively than “immediate acupuncture” or no acupuncture. These results suggest that acupuncture may be an effective modality for treating dysmenorrhea, and treating before the menstrual period is more effective than only treating while the symptoms are presenting.

“Clinical study on the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea with preconditioning acupuncture,” Bu YQ, Du GZ, et al, Chin J Integr Med, 2011 March; 17(3): 224-7


 In a randomized, controlled study involving 124 patients between the ages of 18 and 65 years, with chronic (85%) or subacute whiplash-associated disorder (WAD, grade I or II), treatment with acupuncture (specifically electro-acupuncture, 12 treatments over the course of 6 weeks) was found to be associated with significantly greater reduction in pain intensity at 3 and 6 months follow-up, as compared to subjects who received a simulated but not real acupuncture treatment. The authors conclude, “Real electro-acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction in pain intensity over at least 6 months.”

“A Randomized Trial Comparing Acupuncture and Simulated Acupuncture, for Sub-acute and Chronic Whiplash,” Cameron ID, Wang E, et al, Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2011 April 7