Acupuncture Evidence: what it can treat

Acupuncture is the most clinically proven, evidence based profession of all non – pharmacological (practitioner based) modalities. In fact we have more evidence than most of the others combined! Acupuncture has strong – mid level evidence for safety, clinical effectiveness, and cost efficiency across more than 100 medical conditions, ranging from musculoskeletal, neurological, mental health, reproductive and immunology, and more.

The Acupuncture Evidence Project (2017) demonstrated the conditions below as having with strong or high level evidence supporting Acupuncture as primary treatment.

Internal Medicine Conditions:
Allergic Rhinitis (perenial + seasonal)
Asthma (adults)
Chemotherapy induced nausea + vomiting, cancer pain + cancer related fatigue
Migraines (treatment and prevention)
Headaches (tension + chronic)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Musculoskeletal/ Neurological Conditions:
Chronic and Acute low back pain
Knee Osteoarthritis
Neck Pain
Temporomandibular pain (TMJ)
Shoulder pain (including shoulder impingement syndrome)
Stroke rehabilitation
Restless Leg Syndrome

Mental Health Conditions:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Schizophrenia (with anti-psychotics)

Post operative pain, nausea and vomiting
Labour Pain
Back and Pelvic pain during pregnancy
Menopausal Hot flushes
Smoking Cessation

The Prestigious Cochrane review has also updated its central register of Clinical studies: you can see the image above for a listing of allied health professions. You may notice a few conspicuous absences on this list: this is because the ‘Gold standard’ of clinical studies is a randomised clinical trial (RCT), which some professions do not use as their standard practice. They are therefore not included in this listing.

I’ve also listed some clinical studies below, either mechanism of action, specific to relevant conditions or areas of interest. It is not by any means a comprehensive list.

I frequently share clinical trials to the Facebook page: click like and feel welcome to scroll through previous posts for more information.

  • Acupuncture has been proven to increase energy, reduce physical and mental symptoms (including exhaustion, weakness, poor memory, depression and concentration) for chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  • Acupuncture demonstrated significant efficiency in the treatment of chronic, non responding anxiety (against CBT, Medications and counselling)
  • Acupuncture causes a ‘significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and is not associated with serious adverse events’
  • Treatment for depression and co morbid pain – Acupuncture performs better than counselling and standard care.
  • Acupuncture benefits brain chemistry and regulates gene expression in depression by modifying and regulating key neurotransmitters and steroid transmitters vital for the functioning of the nervous system.
  • Acupuncture affects the brain differently and balances cerebellum activation in insomnia patients
  • Acupuncture treatment is shown to significantly improve various aspects of sleep disturbance.
  • Acupuncture performs equal and in some cases better than counselling in comparison to standard care for anxiety and depression, and was associated with few and mild side effects.
  • Acupuncture modulates the limbic system and sub cortical grey structures of the brain.
  • Reduction of glucocorticoid, specifically cortisol hormone production
  • Brain imaging studies and neuro chemical tracing studies demonstrate down modulation (reduction) of the autonomic nervous system and the adrenal axis, and recalibration of the central nervous system, both of which are mechanisms assisting in re-establishing homeostasis of the nervous system.
  • Modulation of the nodal (hypothalamus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex) and central and autonomic network dysfunction, and the HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis
  • Acupuncture is significantly effective in improving cognition and memory via protecting against oxidative damage, improving and up regulating anti oxidants, glucose transporters, and down regulating nitric oxide. Overall this reflects an improvement in cerebral blood flow and cerebral glucose metabolism.