Acupuncture Boosts Efficacy of Standard Care For Chronic Pain and Depression

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The efficacy of acupuncture in successfully treating chronic pain and depression is the focus of new research from the UK. A team of researchers at the University of York  discovered that acupuncture used in concert with standard health care is effective in lessening the symptoms of both conditions.

In the study, published in the National Institute for Health Research journal, researchers analysed pre-existing data from 29 clinical trials. The majority focused on 18,000 participants treated for chronic pain of the neck, lower back, head and knee. Researchers compared results for those treated with standard care (anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy) and acupuncture against those treated just with standard care.

Results show that both modes of care when implemented together”significantly reduced” the frequency of headaches and migraines, and also reduced the severity of neck and lower back pain. It also revealed that acupuncture “reduced th e pain and disability of osteoarthritis.”

In addition, the team conducted a new study to ascertain the efficacy of acupuncture on treating depression. 755 participants were put into two groups: those who received acupuncture and counselling, and those who received anti-depressants. The first group showed signs of improvement, with participants saying the treatment reduced the severity of their depression and managed to sustain the effects for up to 12 months afterwards.

“The front-line treatment for depression in primary care usually involves antidepressants; however, they do not work well for more than half of patients,” said Professor MacPherson, from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, who led the research. “In the largest study of its kind, we have now provided a solid evidence base to show that not only can acupuncture and counselling bring patients out of an episode of depression, but it can keep the condition at bay for up to a year on average.”

Typical treatment protocols for depression are prescription medications, despite the fact that many antidepressants have severe side effects that can increase a person’s risk of committing suicide. Studies have shown that acupuncture improves the quality of life in those who suffer from depression.

“There has been an increase in practitioners using acupuncture as an intervention,” adds MacPherson. “Approximately four million acupuncture treatments are provided a year in the UK, but the evidence to show how clinically effective this form of treatment is has been limited.

“There has been a question mark for many years over whether policy and decision makers should or should not provide wider access to acupuncture. Our aim was to bring together data from high quality clinical trials and provide a robust evidence base that will help reduce this uncertainty and support commissioners and health professionals in making informed decisions backed up with research.”

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