Acupuncture 'has almost no effect in relieving pain'
The pain relieving effects of acupuncture are so small that they may be clinically irrelevant, according to a review of research into the treatment.
Scientists looking at 13 studies into the traditional therapy, in which needles are placed into the skin to stimulate specific pressure points, found its effect on pain reduction to be around just four per cent.
The effect is so small that it is not statistically significant, and does not even register as "minimal", they said.
The studies, which involved more than 3,000 patients, compared the effects of the treatment against "sham" acupuncture, in which needles are usually placed far from m traditional acupuncture points and closer to the surface of the skin.
Researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, who published their results on the BMJ journal, looked at the ability of acupuncture to relieve that pain of a number of conditions including osteoarthritis in the knee, migraine and pain in the lower back.
Asbjørn Hrobjartsson, from the centre, who led the study, said that the findings questioned the theory that acupuncture had a strong impact on feelings of pain.
But Dr Adrian White and Dr Mike Cummings, from the British Medical Acupuncture Society, writing in the same journal, said that although the overall effect was not large the therapy could be useful for some conditions, particularly musculoskeletal conditions, for which there are few other treatments.
Last week scientists warned that the therapeutic effects of acupuncture were mostly in the mind.