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The Acupuncture Evidence Project - A Comparative Literature Review out of Australia

"We searched the literature with a focus on systematic reviews and meta analyses (the highest form of evidence available). We sorted the evidence to identify which conditions acupuncture has been found to be most effective for. We also looked for evidence of acupuncture's safety and cost-effectiveness, and we reported how the evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness has changed over an eleven-year time-frame." (McDonald J, Janz S.)

This rigorous review of the most up-to-date research on acupuncture's efficacy for various conditions, concluded with confidence that acupuncture has a 'positive effect' on eight conditions:

  • migraine prophylaxis

  • headache

  • chronic low back pain

  • allergic rhinitis

  • knee osteoarthritis

  • chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

  • post-operative nausea and vomiting

  • post-operative pain

Many of these conditions affect quality of life and impact productivity of labor. Acupuncture presents itself as an effective means of improving quality of life and productivity, with especially strong evidence for the above conditions.

They also identified that acupuncture has a 'potentially positive effect' on 38 other conditions. Finally, they noted that there is insufficient evidence, and a need for more or better research for 71 conditions.

In this review, 122 conditions across 14 broad clinical areas were identified and, of these, only five conditions found 'no evidence of effect' for acupuncture. The level of evidence was found by this review to have increased for 24 conditions since previous reviews were performed over fourteen years ago.

"The realisation that pharmacological and surgical interventions are not without their limitations has increased interest in drug-free treatments such as acupuncture." (McDonald J, Janz S.)

Let's look at the value and benefit of some of the conditions the study looked at, with special commentary on the positive effects on human labor:

Tension headaches and migraines affect quality of life and interfere with a person's productivity. Acupuncture as a non-drug therapy is very effective in improving quality of life, and also reducing loss-of-work.

Allergic rhinitis affect quality of life and are not always treated successfully with drugs. Acupuncture offers a potentially effective, non-drug treatment.

Knee Osteoarthritis is becoming an increasingly common disease that is not only reducing quality of life but also increasing health costs. Acupuncture as an effective, non-drug, non-surgical treatment option is suggested to be a way to reduce costs of treatment by delaying surgical interventions and to help avoid opioid drug risk issues. Low back pain is a WHO priority disease, and is the single largest contributor to disability worldwide (Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, Blyth F, Woolf A, Bain C, et al. 2014). The finding that acupuncture benefits chronic low back pain is arguably the most important finding from this report.

Conditions were also evaluated for their cost effectiveness. The following list were found to be the most cost effective when treated by acupuncture:

  • Allergic Rhinitis

  • Low back pain

  • Ambulatory Anaesthesia

  • Migraine

  • Chronic Pain

  • Neck Pain (plus usual medical care)

  • Depression

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Dysmenorrhoea

  • Post-operative nausea and vomiting

  • Headache

Once again, the full published paper is available for download here.


McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017. Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, Blyth F, Woolf A, Bain C, et al. The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014 Jun;73(6):968-74.

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