Acupuncture for chronic pain

With Tim Wright - Gower Acupuncture

On 7th April NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommended acupuncture as treatment for chronic pain, ( blanket recommendation for primary and secondary chronic pain is a rare but welcome endorsement from the medical establishment. Previously NICE has only endorsed acupuncture for knee pain, tension headaches and migraine.

If you look at the overall trends, it’s hard to ignore acupuncture. The number of medically published acupuncture research articles has doubled from the last decade. Articles published on pubmed ( have risen from 9,606 in the decade 2001 to 2011 compared to 18,569 articles in the decade 2011 to 2021. ‘So what’ you may ask? Well, it matters to me (and perhaps you) for the following reasons:

1) It proves that there is more mainstream interest in acupuncture. It’s no longer a fringe, or alternative therapy.
2) Acupuncture is not a panacea. It is far more effective at treating some conditions and less so for some others. The more research we have the more we can highlight acupuncture’s strengths and weaknesses and guide patients accordingly.
3) There are many, many different ways to treat the same condition. There are over 300 main acupuncture points, plus another 700 lesser well known acupuncture points, plus almost infinite amount of other points used to treat myofascial pain. Narrowing down treatment protocols and  acupuncture point selections will help newly qualified acupuncturists become more effective, quicker.

So, what’s acupuncture best for?

In my experience the best outcomes are for the following conditions:

  • Knee pain
  • Back pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Anxiety/ stress

Those are my favourite conditions to treat. But acupuncture is effective for much more. The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese medicine Association (AACMA), commissioned a comprehensive review to provide an evidence based guide to the effectiveness of acupuncture, using scientifically rigorous methods. It is a review where published systematic reviews of mostly randomised controlled trials are collect-ed together and summarised. The results below are for the 7 conditions with the strongest evidence for acupuncture. The most positive outcomes according to research are for:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Chronic back pain
  • Tension headache
  • Migraine
  • Knee osteoarthritis
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Post-operative pain

There are a further 38 conditions with potential positive effects. You can read more here…







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