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Study analyzes effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for chronic pain treatment

Source: CNN, Journal of American Medicine

Acupuncture as a treatment for pain was developed by the Chinese and has been practiced for thousands of years. But does it work? A new study suggests pain relief provided by the ancient treatment is both real and a result of the placebo effect. Researchers studied 29 clinical trials involving about 18,000 people who suffered from chronic pain. All of the trials compared real acupuncture treatments with either traditional pain management methods or with “sham” acupuncture, where needles were inserted randomly.

The study found genuine acupuncture had a 50% effectiveness rate in terms of managing pain compared with a 43% rating for sham acupuncture and a 30% rating for treatment as usual. The fact that genuine acupuncture performed so much better than treatment as usual suggests acupuncture helps relieve pain. However, since the sham acupuncture was only slight less effective than the real thing, some of the benefit may mean patients are influenced by the placebo effect: they feel less pain because they expect the treatment to work.

Although the jury is still out on the extent of the placebo influence, experts say they will continue to recommend acupuncture because it works.