Does acupuncture work? Is there any evidence to show it works? What can acupuncture help? These are all common questions that we often get asked at York Clinic.

To answer these questions, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has published an NIHR “Signal” reporting on an NIHR programme of research led by our very own Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson, who is also Professor of Acupuncture Research at the University of York. This programme included a review to explore whether acupuncture was any better than normal care or sham acupuncture for pain from musculoskeletal conditions, knee osteoarthritis and chronic headaches or whether it only produced a placebo effect.



The answer was it is more than a placebo and the NIHR have produced a 41 second power-point highlighting the key results.  Watch the video NIHR here.

The NIHR report on the results states that, “Acupuncture is not a placebo for treatment of chronic pain.” The systematic review involved over 29 trials and 18,000 patients with chronic pain. One of the challenges of the trial was to find an appropriate method for testing the placebo. This research, using a robust systematic review methodology, developed rigorous methods to investigate the impact of the three interventions: acupuncture, sham acupuncture and normal care. The NIHR report on the results states that, “acupuncture is better than usual care and sham acupuncture for musculoskeletal conditions, knee osteoarthritis and chronic headaches.”

One of the many advantages of acupuncture is that it is not a drug and has very few side effects. There are over 4 million acupuncture treatments in the UK each year. It is used in the NHS by physiotherapists for musculoskeletal conditions.  However over two thirds of treatment are outside the NHS. Hopefully this research will help educate more people of the long term benefits of acupuncture.

For the NIHR Signal, see here. For an Abstract of the Full Programme Report, click here. For the Full Report itself, click here.

If you would like more information on acupuncture or to book an appointment with any of our nine acupuncturist please contact York Clinic or phone 01904 709688 between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, or between 9am and 2pm on Saturdays.  Alternatively, email us at, or use our contact form.  We will respond to you as quickly as possible.