public - research

The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese medicine Association (AACMA) commissioned this review to provide an up to date evidence based guide to the effectiveness of acupuncture using scientifically rigorous methods. Comprehensive acupuncture reviews have been published by the Australian (2010) and US (2013) Departments of Veterans’ Affairs in recent years and this current study built on those by adding data from 2013-16.

These are all, strictly speaking, over-reviews, where published systematic reviews of (largely) randomised controlled trials are collected together and summarised. The results thus reflect the highest level evidence available.

122 different health conditions are represented and the evidence in each of these has been assigned to one of four categories:

Evidence levelNumber of conditions
Positive effect 8
Potential positive effect 38
Unclear/insufficient 71
No evidence of effect 5

The American College of Physicians recently published a guideline entitled Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians

http://annals.org/aim/article/2603228/noninvasive-treatments-acute-subacute-chronic-low-back-pain-clinical-practice

How very confusing these guidelines are. No sooner does NICE change its mind and give acupuncture the thumbs down for low back pain than up pops the American College of Physicians (the largest medical speciality organisation in the USA) to endorse it. Their conclusions are in line with those of two US government agencies that reviewed the evidence in 2016 and found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for chronic back pain (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Feb 2016; Nahin et al, Sept 2016). How can different guidelines, using much the same data, come up with such different answers? Well, guideline recommendations reflect not only the state of the evidence but also how this evidence is interpreted by the people producing them, and this is subject to all kinds of personal and institutional influences. Hence single guidelines cannot really be trusted: as with builders’ quotes you’d be wise to look at several different ones and get a consensus.

Last week’s popular news story has important implications for guidelines on back pain and puts NICE’s decision on acupuncture into an even worse light. Here is some information you could use to help you to understand, inform, debate, complain or whatever else moves you.

In October 2013 I went to a stakeholders workshop to hear about, and discuss, NICE’s plan for an updated guideline on low back pain. The 2009 recommendation of acupuncture has become a key part of BAcC marketing and may have knock-on effects for all of us through increased acceptability in orthodox medical circles. However, the acupuncture recommendation has never gained much of a foothold when it comes to funding primary care services, leaving NICE with egg on its face. This was one of the stated reasons for the guideline update. One solution would be to persuade the NHS to comply with the recommendation; the easier and cheaper option would be simply to uncouple acupuncture.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 23:24

Acupuncture reduces crying in colicky babies

A Swedish university study published yesterday concluded that acupuncture may be an effective treatment option for babies that continue to cry when conventional approaches have been unsuccessful.

They recruited healthy infants, aged 2-8 weeks, who were still crying more than 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week, after having cow’s milk protein excluded from their/their mothers’ diet. In this randomised trial 98 babies had 4 sessions of acupuncture over 2 weeks and 49 had no acupuncture. All of them received gold standard conventional treatment in specialist child health centres. The acupuncture was minimal (very few needles, very shallow insertion, retained for a very short time period), according to usual practice among acupuncturists who specialise in treating infants. Effectiveness was measured in crying time, as recorded in diaries by the parents. Note that parents (and nurses) were both blinded, i.e. they didn’t know whether their baby was getting acupuncture or not, to avoid biasing the results.

The Acupuncture Research Resource Centre (ARRC) provides a specialist resource for acupuncture research. ARRC was set up by the BAcC in 1994. It has been hosted by two different universities but is currently located at the BAcC headquarters.

Although traditional acupuncture has been studied, tested and refined for centuries in China, huge databases of research remain largely inaccessible outside the Far East and some western commentators question their credibility. But as new research begins to provide quantifiable evidence of traditional acupuncture's efficacy and cost-effectiveness the body of evidence available internationally is growing rapidly.

  • improve the evidence base and demonstrate the value of traditional acupuncture
  • collect acupuncture research data from available sources
  • develop and apply research methods that are suited to investigating traditional acupuncture
  • increase awareness of the effectiveness of traditional acupuncture by providing good quality information to practitioners, other health service providers, journalists, researchers, government bodies and the public
  • liaise with other researchers and establish a network of research-active practitioners
  • produce review papers on the latest evidence-based clinical trials into the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of specific conditions
  • encourage and support BAcC members' research projects
  • conduct the BAcC's own research projects
  • organise an annual research symposium for healthcare professionals from all backgrounds

For research enquiries please contact Mark Bovey