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An update of the landmark 2012 study by the international Acupuncture Trialists' Collaboration reinforces the evidence that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain and that its benefits cannot be explained solely in terms of placebo effects. The new individual patient data meta-analysis analysed data from an additional 13 trials, giving a total data set of 20,827 patients from 39 trials. Acupuncture was superior to both sham and no-acupuncture control for all four chronic pain conditions examined (back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain). Patients receiving acupuncture had less pain. When compared with sham, the effects sizes for acupuncture were small, while the the effect sizes in comparison to no-acupuncture controls were moderate. The authors also found clear evidence that the effects of acupuncture persist over time with only a small decrease (approximately 15 per cent) in treatment effect after one year. They conclude that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain.

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. J Pain. 2017 Nov 30. pii: S1526-5900(17)30780-0. 

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