If you are suffering from chronic pain or depression, then a course of acupuncture may boost the effects of any conventional medication you’re taking, recent research has shown. The results published in a report from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) showed that acupuncture is more than a placebo effect, so the benefits are real and not just imagined.
Acupuncture has sometimes been dismissed as a placebo treatment, but research shows that the benefits of acupuncture go well beyond anything that has been achieved by ‘sham acupuncture’, where the needles are put in the ‘wrong’ locations around the body or using non-inserted needles (fake needles) at the correct locations.
Hugh MacPherson, Professor of Acupuncture Research at the University of York, led a programme of research with a team of scientists from the UK and US. The research included analysing the results of 29 high quality clinical trials which focused on patients with chronic pain and/or depression who were also treated with acupuncture and standard medical care.
The report showed that the addition of acupuncture compared to standard medical care alone significantly reduced the number of headaches and migraine attacks and reduced the severity of neck and lower back pain. It also showed that acupuncture reduced the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, which led to patients being less reliant on anti-inflammatory tablets to control pain.
The team also conducted a new clinical trial for depression, where acupuncture or
counselling was provided and compared to the effectiveness of medication, such as antidepressants.
The study involved 755 patients with depression in the North of England. Professor MacPherson said: “In the largest study of its kind, we have now provided a solid evidence base to show that not only can acupuncture and counselling bring patients out of an episode of depression, but it can keep the condition at bay for up to a year on average.
Professor MacPherson added: “Our new data provides a significant step forward in treating chronic pain and managing depression, because patients and health professionals can now make decisions on acupuncture with more confidence. Not only is it more cost effective, but it reduces pain levels and improves mood levels, which could reduce over reliance on drugs that can sometimes result in unwanted side effects.”
The full Report on the benefits of acupuncture for pain and depression can be found here.
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