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      Acupuncture: Does it alleviate pain and are there serious risks? A review of reviews :

      , ,

      Pain

      Elsevier BV

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          Abstract

          Acupuncture is commonly used for pain control, but doubts about its effectiveness and safety remain. This review was aimed at critically evaluating systematic reviews of acupuncture as a treatment of pain and at summarizing reports of serious adverse effects published since 2000. Literature searches were carried out in 11 databases without language restrictions. Systematic reviews were considered for the evaluation of effectiveness and case series or case reports for summarizing adverse events. Data were extracted according to predefined criteria. Fifty-seven systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria. Four were of excellent methodological quality. Numerous contradictions and caveats emerged. Unanimously positive conclusions from more than one high-quality systematic review existed only for neck pain. Ninety-five cases of severe adverse effects including 5 fatalities were included. Pneumothorax and infections were the most frequently reported adverse effects. In conclusion, numerous systematic reviews have generated little truly convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain. Serious adverse effects continue to be reported. Numerous reviews have produced little convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain. Serious adverse events, including deaths, continue to be reported. Copyright © 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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          Most cited references 114

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          Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia.

           Zhi-Qi Zhao (2008)
          Acupuncture has been accepted to effectively treat chronic pain by inserting needles into the specific "acupuncture points" (acupoints) on the patient's body. During the last decades, our understanding of how the brain processes acupuncture analgesia has undergone considerable development. Acupuncture analgesia is manifested only when the intricate feeling (soreness, numbness, heaviness and distension) of acupuncture in patients occurs following acupuncture manipulation. Manual acupuncture (MA) is the insertion of an acupuncture needle into acupoint followed by the twisting of the needle up and down by hand. In MA, all types of afferent fibers (Abeta, Adelta and C) are activated. In electrical acupuncture (EA), a stimulating current via the inserted needle is delivered to acupoints. Electrical current intense enough to excite Abeta- and part of Adelta-fibers can induce an analgesic effect. Acupuncture signals ascend mainly through the spinal ventrolateral funiculus to the brain. Many brain nuclei composing a complicated network are involved in processing acupuncture analgesia, including the nucleus raphe magnus (NRM), periaqueductal grey (PAG), locus coeruleus, arcuate nucleus (Arc), preoptic area, nucleus submedius, habenular nucleus, accumbens nucleus, caudate nucleus, septal area, amygdale, etc. Acupuncture analgesia is essentially a manifestation of integrative processes at different levels in the CNS between afferent impulses from pain regions and impulses from acupoints. In the last decade, profound studies on neural mechanisms underlying acupuncture analgesia predominately focus on cellular and molecular substrate and functional brain imaging and have developed rapidly. Diverse signal molecules contribute to mediating acupuncture analgesia, such as opioid peptides (mu-, delta- and kappa-receptors), glutamate (NMDA and AMPA/KA receptors), 5-hydroxytryptamine, and cholecystokinin octapeptide. Among these, the opioid peptides and their receptors in Arc-PAG-NRM-spinal dorsal horn pathway play a pivotal role in mediating acupuncture analgesia. The release of opioid peptides evoked by electroacupuncture is frequency-dependent. EA at 2 and 100Hz produces release of enkephalin and dynorphin in the spinal cord, respectively. CCK-8 antagonizes acupuncture analgesia. The individual differences of acupuncture analgesia are associated with inherited genetic factors and the density of CCK receptors. The brain regions associated with acupuncture analgesia identified in animal experiments were confirmed and further explored in the human brain by means of functional imaging. EA analgesia is likely associated with its counter-regulation to spinal glial activation. PTX-sesntive Gi/o protein- and MAP kinase-mediated signal pathways as well as the downstream events NF-kappaB, c-fos and c-jun play important roles in EA analgesia.
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            A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain.

            Acupuncture is a popular complementary and alternative treatment for chronic back pain. Recent European trials suggest similar short-term benefits from real and sham acupuncture needling. This trial addresses the importance of needle placement and skin penetration in eliciting acupuncture effects for patients with chronic low back pain. A total of 638 adults with chronic mechanical low back pain were randomized to individualized acupuncture, standardized acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, or usual care. Ten treatments were provided over 7 weeks by experienced acupuncturists. The primary outcomes were back-related dysfunction (Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire score; range, 0-23) and symptom bothersomeness (0-10 scale). Outcomes were assessed at baseline and after 8, 26, and 52 weeks. At 8 weeks, mean dysfunction scores for the individualized, standardized, and simulated acupuncture groups improved by 4.4, 4.5, and 4.4 points, respectively, compared with 2.1 points for those receiving usual care (P .05). Although acupuncture was found effective for chronic low back pain, tailoring needling sites to each patient and penetration of the skin appear to be unimportant in eliciting therapeutic benefits. These findings raise questions about acupuncture's purported mechanisms of action. It remains unclear whether acupuncture or our simulated method of acupuncture provide physiologically important stimulation or represent placebo or nonspecific effects.
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              Meta-analysis: acupuncture for low back pain.

              Low back pain limits activity and is the second most frequent reason for physician visits. Previous research shows widespread use of acupuncture for low back pain. To assess acupuncture's effectiveness for treating low back pain. Randomized, controlled trials were identified through searches of MEDLINE, Cochrane Central, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL, CISCOM, and GERA databases through August 2004. Additional data sources included previous reviews and personal contacts with colleagues. Randomized, controlled trials comparing needle acupuncture with sham acupuncture, other sham treatments, no additional treatment, or another active treatment for patients with low back pain. Data were dually extracted for the outcomes of pain, functional status, overall improvement, return to work, and analgesic consumption. In addition, study quality was assessed. The 33 randomized, controlled trials that met inclusion criteria were subgrouped according to acute or chronic pain, style of acupuncture, and type of control group used. The principal [correction] measure of effect size was the standardized mean difference, since the trials assessed the same outcome but measured it in various ways. For the primary outcome of short-term relief of chronic pain, the meta-analyses showed that acupuncture is significantly more effective than sham treatment (standardized mean difference, 0.54 [95% CI, 0.35 to 0.73]; 7 trials) and no additional treatment (standardized mean difference, 0.69 [CI, 0.40 to 0.98]; 8 trials). For patients with acute low back pain, data are sparse and inconclusive. Data are also insufficient for drawing conclusions about acupuncture's short-term effectiveness compared with most other therapies. The quantity and quality of the included trials varied. Acupuncture effectively relieves chronic low back pain. No evidence suggests that acupuncture is more effective than other active therapies.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Pain
                Pain
                Elsevier BV
                0304-3959
                2011
                April 2011
                : 152
                : 4
                : 755-764
                Article
                10.1016/j.pain.2010.11.004
                21440191
                © 2011

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