Response to Cochrane Review on Acupuncture and Pain Relief

The British Acupuncture Council is somewhat surprised at the findings of today's research review from the Cochrane Institute in Denmark about the pain-relieving effects of acupuncture. The review stated that the effects of acupuncture compared with a placebo may be so small that they may be clinically irrelevant.  However this does seem to contradict the majority of research previously published in the area of acupuncture and pain relief.

Acupuncture does work and research results consistently demonstrate the positive outcomes of treatment on patients for a wide variety of health conditions, including for pain relief.

The British Acupuncture Council, the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture, continues to exercise high standards and stringent training processes with regards to patient diagnosis and treatment.

Every patient who visits a British Acupuncture Council practitioner is given a full consultation prior to treatment, to assess any condition and thereby identify signs that the patient should be referred to a doctor for conventional medical treatment.

The profession of acupuncture continues to be a beneficial and effective therapy for a variety of conditions and the consultation process is of paramount importance to its efficacy.

The British Acupuncture Council is working towards the forthcoming statutory regulation of acupuncture and other complementary therapies to ensure the highest standards of professional excellence are maintained.

Mike O'Farrell
Chief Executive, The British Acupuncture Council

As with all health care treatments, it's important to find a registered and qualified practitioner. To find a practitioner in your area call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit

Background Information


Proven results:

IVF and Acupuncture:  study published in British Medical Journal
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) welcomes the preliminary results of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 7 trials, involving 1,336 women undergoing IVF.  This study suggests that when acupuncture is given in conjunction with embryo transfer, it increases the chance of women becoming pregnant by 65%, in comparison to sham acupuncture or no additional treatment.  What this means is that 10 women would need to be treated with acupuncture to bring about one additional pregnancy.

Migraines - Vickers et al (2004)

The results of a very large trial (400 patients) in the UK as published in the BMJ Pain, score: 34% improvement in the acupuncture group versus 16% for standard medical treatment (significant difference).

After receiving acupuncture patients had 22 fewer days of headache per year, made 25% fewer visits to the GP, and used 15% less medication.


Research by JC Butler et al (2005) was conducted on 55 patients suffering from stress-related emotional disorders. All patients were treated with acupuncture for the condition and the total effective rate for the reduction of symptoms in all 55 patients was 95.4%

In Scotland research was conducted among hospice staff who were measured for stress using a psychological profile and then tested again following four acupuncture treatments.  A 44% reduction in stress was recorded (2002)

Back Pain

Research by the University of Regensburg has shown that acupuncture is one of the most effective therapies for back pain. The research published by Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that acupuncture can provide significantly more relief from lower back pain than conventional therapies.

The Chinese needle treatment was 74% more likely to lead to a sustained reduction in pain or improved ability to function normally than physiotherapy, medication and advice on exercise.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists acupuncture as a recognised treatment for depression.

A double blind study was conducted among women suffering from depression. The results found that acupuncture was significantly better in treating depression than either sham acupuncture or no treatment at all (1998, Allen et al).

A 2004 study found that acupuncture was an effective treatment for depression during pregnancy. (University of Stanford).