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Review: limited evidence suggests that acupuncture is more effective than no treatment for chronic pain

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QUESTION: Is acupuncture effective for the treatment of chronic pain?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching Medline (1966–99), the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field trials registry, and the University of Maryland Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pain (CAMPAIN) databases using the terms acupuncture; alternative medicine; electroacupuncture; moxibustion; injections, intramuscular; medicine, traditional chinese; trigger point therapy; and auriculotherapy. Conference proceedings and bibliographies of relevant articles were also searched.

Study selection

English language randomised trials were selected if they included patients who had had pain for >3 months, used needles rather than surface electrodes, and had a measurement for pain relief.

Data extraction

Data were extracted on acupuncture and control method, study and patient characteristics, methodological quality (low quality was defined as a score …

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  • Sources of funding: Maurice Laing Foundation; US National Institutes of Health.

  • For correspondence: Ms V A Hadhazy, Complementary Medicine Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Kernan Hospital Mansion, 2200 Kernan Drive, Baltimore, MD 21207-6697, USA. Fax +1 410 448 6875.