Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain.

Chronic pain imposes a substantial burden on individuals and society which is as great as other more publicised health priorities such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Studies have found that as many as 1 in 5 adults are affected by chronic pain which persists for more than 6 months. Due to limited conventional medical care options beyond symptomatic pain relief, one third of those who live with chronic pain conditions may not be seeking and receiving treatment at all.

What is our clinical experience?

Based on feedback collected from over 396 initial appointments for Chronic Pain, Nerve Pain & Fibromyalgia, 81% of our patients reported improved quality of life after their first 5 appointments. See our detailed benchmarking statistics.

Quality of Life
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What does the research say?

The following insights are obtained from systematic reviews and analysis of clinical trials investigating the efficacy of Chinese medicine and acupuncture for chronic pain.

Summary of Recent Research

Recent research provides compelling evidence supporting the efficacy of Chinese medicine, particularly acupuncture, in the treatment of various chronic pain conditions. A 2022 study in the Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics found that a six-week course of acupuncture was as effective as six months of conventional drug prophylaxis in treating migraines, highlighting the potential for acupuncture to be integrated into current migraine therapy protocols. Similarly, a randomized controlled trial published in Neurology the same year demonstrated that true acupuncture significantly reduced the frequency of chronic tension-type headaches over an eight-week period. These studies suggest that acupuncture, with its minimal side effects, could be a viable alternative to traditional pharmacological treatments for chronic headache conditions.

Further investigations into acupuncture's broader applications reveal its benefits for other chronic pain conditions as well, such as knee osteoarthritis and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. For instance, a systematic review in BioMed Research International (2022) concluded that acupuncture not only reduced pain but also improved functional activities in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Moreover, research in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (2021) showed that acupuncture effectively improved nerve conduction and clinical symptoms in patients suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy. These findings underscore acupuncture's role as a safe and effective alternative to standard medical treatments for reducing pain and enhancing the quality of life in patients with chronic pain conditions, urging further validation through rigorous clinical trials to fully establish its therapeutic potential.

Consult with our practitioners for personalised care and advice.

Although well-conducted clinical research can help members of the public to make better-informed decisions about their healthcare, we cannot claim that any particular treatment may be effective for any individual person.

When you consult with our Chinese medicine practitioners, you'll receive personalised advice and treatment based on your symptoms and Chinese medicine diagnosis.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific clinical research on acupuncture for chronic pain.

It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics

2022, Sep

Role of acupuncture in the treatment of migraine
Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics

The review suggests that acupuncture should be integrated into existing migraine therapy protocols.

Endres HG, Diener HC, Molsberger A Full Article


2022, Jun 22

Acupuncture for Patients With Chronic Tension-Type Headache
Neurology American Academy of Neurology

The 8-week true acupuncture (TA) treatment was effective for the prophylaxis of chronic tension-type headache (CTTH).

Zheng H, Gao T, Zheng QH, Lu LY, Hou TH, Zhang SS, Zhou SY, Hao XY, Wang L, Zhao L, Liang FR, Li Y Full Article

Annals of Medicine

2022, Jan 31

A network pharmacology approach to predict potential targets and mechanisms of “Ramulus Cinnamomi (cassiae) – Paeonia lactiflora” herb pair in the treatment of chronic pain with comorbid anxiety and depression
Annals of Medicine

This study preliminarily predicted and verified the pharmacological and molecular mechanisms of “Gui Zhi–Shao Yao” herb pair for treating CP with comorbid AD and MD from a holistic perspective. In vivo and in vitro experiments will be required to further investigate the mechanisms.

Pan HT, Xi ZQ, Wei XQ, Wang K Full Article

Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics

2021, Jan 28

Acupuncture treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy: An overview of systematic reviews
Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics

Acupuncture appears to have an effect on DPN, effectively improving nerve conduction and clinical symptoms. Although the methodological quality of the included studies was generally very low and defects were frequent, our study highlights areas where improvement in methodology is required. There is a need for further study of the pathogenesis of DPN, and for developing a unified standard for methods of acupuncture treatment, acupoint selection, and adverse reactions reporting. Traditional Chinese medical practices such as acupuncture should adopt an evidence-based approach to provide greater confidence in their use.

Yu B, Li M, Huang H, Ma S, Huang K, Zhong Z, Yu S, Zhang L. Full Article

Neurology and Therapy

2020, Oct 1

Acupuncture and Its Role in the Treatment of Migraine Headaches
Neurology and Therapy

The current research analysis revealed that 41% of patients who received acupuncture had a reduction in migraine frequency. Results found that 57% of patients who received true acupuncture had a reduction in migraine frequency by at least half compared with 46% who received medication. Overall, acupuncture helped improve quality of life and reduction in medication

Urits I, Patel M, Putz ME, Monteferrante NR, Nguyen D, An D, Cornett EM, Hasoon J, Kaye AD, Viswanath O. Full Article

Pain Research & Management

2020, Mar 23

Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture for Migraine: An Overview of Systematic Reviews
Pain Research & Management

We found high quality of evidence indicated that the effective rate of acupuncture was superior to western medicine in treatment of migraine. Besides, acupuncture reduced more headache days and the times of using painkiller and was more effective in reducing the frequency and degree of headache than western medicine and sham acupuncture. Based on high quality of evidence, we concluded that acupuncture may be an effective and safe therapy for migraine.

Li YX, Xiao XL, Zhong DL, Luo LJ, Yang H, Zhou J, He MX, Shi LH, Li J, Zheng H, Jin RJ Full Article

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

2020, Jun 25

Effect of Acupuncture on Chronic Pain with Depression: A Systematic Review
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Acupuncture has a promising application prospect due to its unique advantages for the treatment of chronic pain with depression comorbidity, which can be used in patients suffering from some certain chronic pain with depression comorbidity with poorer response to the conventional medication or suffering from serious side effects. High-quality RCTs are needed to support the current clinical application of acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain with depression comorbidity and to broaden the clinical application.

Yan B, Zhu S, Wang Y, Da G, Tian G Full Article

JAMA Oncology

2020, Mar 11

Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Procedure on Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms A Randomized Clinical Trial
JAMA Oncology American Medical Association

Compared with usual care, acupuncture resulted in significant improvement in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy symptoms.

Bao T, Patil S, Chen C, et al. Full Article


2020, Mar 30

Pomegranate as a Potential Alternative of Pain Management: A Review

Different parts of pomegranate were found to have an antinociceptive effect, potentially through the activation of specific pathways and systems such as the L-arginine/NO pathway, TRP superfamily, and the opioid system, suggesting its potential use in the treatment of inflammatory, nociceptive, and neuropathic pain.

Guerrero-Solano JA, Jaramillo-Morales OA, Velázquez-González C, De la O-Arciniega M, Castañeda-Ovando A, Betanzos-Cabrera G, Bautista M Full Article


2019, Aug 29

Acupuncture in Adult and Pediatric Headache: A Narrative Review

In this article, the authors conduct a review of acupuncture in pediatric headache, including neurobiological mechanisms, adult headache studies, pediatric headache studies, safety, and use of acupuncture in other conditions in children. Acupuncture appears to be safe and effective for the treatment of migraine in children.

Doll, E., Threlkeld, B., Graff, D., Clemons, R., Mittel, O., Sowell, M. K. Full Article


2019, Dec 24

Systematic Review: Acupuncture vs Standard Pharmacological Therapy for Migraine Prevention
Headache American Headache Society

This systematic review of randomised controlled trials articles showed that acupuncture is just as effective for treating migraine. It also has fewer side effects than many of the standard modern pharmaceutical agents. Patients also reported to use less pharmacological drugs after treatments.

Niushen Zhang, Tim Houle, Nada Hindiyeh, & Sheena K. Aurora Full Article

Acupuncture in Medicine

2019, Feb 22

Acupuncture for the treatment of lower limb diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a systematic review
Acupuncture in Medicine British Medical Acupuncture Society

Acupuncture for DPN appears to improve symptoms. However, the application of acupuncture varies greatly, and the quality of included studies was generally low. Available studies have varying methodologies and different outcome measures. Further, suitably powered studies using appropriate DPN outcome measures are required.

Nash J, Armour M, Penkala S Full Article

World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion

2019, Mar

Acupuncture for migraine: A systematic review and meta-analysis
World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies

The results of this meta-analysis showed that acupuncture is more effective and safer than medication for migraine. Patients in acupuncture group found acupuncture to be better than medication for migraine treatment and prophylaxis

SHEN, Feng-jiao AU - XU, Jia AU - ZHAN, Yi-jun AU - FU, Qin-hui AU - PEI, Jian PY Full Article

Arthritis Research & Therapy

2019, May 14

Effects of intensity of electroacupuncture on chronic pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial
Arthritis Research & Therapy

Electroacupuncture should be administered for at least 2 weeks to exert a clinically important effect on improving conditioned pain modulation function of knee osteoarthritis patients. Strong electroacupuncture is better than weak or sham electroacupuncture in alleviating pain intensity and inhibiting chronic pain.

Lv, Z., Shen, L., Zhu, B. et al. Full Article

The Oncologist

2019, Oct 14

Acupuncture for Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial
The Oncologist

In a randomized pilot trial of 40 breast cancer survivors with CIPN, an 8‐week acupuncture intervention (vs. usual care) led to a statistically and clinically significant improvement in subjective sensory symptoms including neuropathic pain and paresthesia. Given the lack of effective therapies and established safety profile of acupuncture, clinicians may consider acupuncture as a treatment option for mild to moderate CIPN in practice.

Lu W, Giobbie-Hurder A, Freedman RA, Shin IH, Lin NU, Partridge AH, Rosenthal DS, Ligibel JA Full Article

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

2018, Sep 27

Acupuncture Treatment for Chronic Pelvic Pain in Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The results of our review and meta-analysis suggest the effectiveness of AT combined with CT for treating women with CPP compared to use of CT alone. However, current evidence is insufficient to verify the efficacy of AT for CPP because of the small number of RCTs and low methodological quality and heterogeneity of interventions. Therefore, larger, more rigorous and adequately powered multicentre RCTs are needed to provide clinical guidelines for AT in treating female CPP patients.

Sung SH, Sung ADM, Sung HK, An TEB, Kim KH, Park JK Full Article

Acupuncture in Medicine

2018, Dec 12

Acupuncture for Episodic Cluster Headache: A Trigeminal Approach
Acupuncture in Medicine British Medical Acupuncture Society

In this case report, episodic cluster headache is treated in the same way as has been shown effective for trigeminal neuralgia. Acupuncture is applied to the contralateral side at points appropriate for stimulating branches of the trigeminal nerve. Thus, ST2 is used for the infraorbital nerve, BL2 and Yuyao for the supratrochlear and supraorbital nerves, and Taiyang for the temporal branch of the zygomatic nerve.

Simon Hayhoe Full Article

The Journal of Pain

2017, Nov 30

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis
The Journal of Pain American Pain Society

Acupuncture has a clinically relevant effect on chronic pain that persists over time. The effect of acupuncture cannot be explained only by placebo effects. Factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors. Referral for acupuncture treatment is a reasonable option for chronic pain patients.

Vickers, Andrew J. et al. Full Article


2017, May

The persistence of the effects of acupuncture after a course of treatment: a meta-analysis of patients with chronic pain
Pain International Association for the Study of Pain

The effects of a course of acupuncture treatment for patients with chronic pain do not seem to decrease importantly over 12 months. Patients can generally be reassured that treatment effects persist. Studies of the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture should take our findings into account when considering the time horizon of acupuncture effects. Further research should measure longer term outcomes of acupuncture.

MacPherson, H; Vertosick, E.A; Foster, N.E; Lewith, G; Linde, K; Sherman, K.J; Witt, C.M; Vickers, A.J Full Article

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

2016, Jun 28

Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Cochrane

The available evidence suggests that adding acupuncture to symptomatic treatment of attacks reduces the frequency of headaches. Contrary to the previous findings, the updated evidence also suggests that there is an effect over sham, but this effect is small. The available trials also suggest that acupuncture may be at least similarly effective as treatment with prophylactic drugs. Acupuncture can be considered a treatment option for patients willing to undergo this treatment.

Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, et al. Full Article

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

2016, Apr 19

Acupuncture for the prevention of tension‐type headache
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Cochrane

The available results suggest that acupuncture is effective for treating frequent episodic or chronic tension‐type headaches. Patients in acupuncture group reported to have at least 50% reduction of headache frequency compared to placebo group.

Klaus Linde,Gianni Allais,Benno Brinkhaus, Yutong Fei,Michael Mehring,Byung‐Cheul Shin,Andrew Vickers,Adrian R White Full Article


2015, May 8

Effects of Acupuncture on Neuropathic Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Neurology American Academy of Neurology

The majority of trials demonstrate a positive effect of acupuncture over control condition in the treatment of neuropathy. Further more rigorously designed studies are needed to better characterize this effect.

Alexandra Dimitrova, Charles Murchison, Barry Oken Full Article

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

2013, May 31

Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Cochrane

There is low to moderate-level evidence that compared with no treatment and standard therapy, acupuncture improves pain and stiffness in people with fibromyalgia.

Deare JC, Zheng Z, Xue CC, Liu JP, Shang J, Scott SW, Littlejohn G. Full Article

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

2001, Jan 22

Acupuncture for idiopathic headache
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Cochrane

Overall, the existing evidence supports the value of acupuncture for the treatment of idiopathic headaches.

Melchart D, Linde K, Berman B, White A, Vickers A, Allais G, Brinkhaus B Full Article

Yin Tang
“It is by virtue of the twelve channels that human life exists, that disease arises, that human beings can be treated and illness cured. The twelve channels are where beginners start and masters end.” The Classic of Acupuncture
Circa 1st Century BCE