There is scientific agreement that an evidence based medicine framework should be used to assess health outcomes and that systematic reviews with strict protocols are essential. Organisations such as the Cochrane Collaboration and Bandolier publish such reviews.
For the following conditions, the Cochrane Collaboration concluded there is insufficient evidence that acupuncture is beneficial, often because of the paucity and poor quality of the research and that further research would be needed to support claims for efficacy:
- Giving up smoking
- Chronic asthma
- Bell’s palsy
- Shoulder pain
- Lateral elbow pain
- Acute stroke
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Low back pain
- Induction of labour
In one area a Cochrane Collaboration review says the P6 acupoint “seems to reduce the risk of nausea but not vomiting” . Another review disagrees .
Bandolier at Oxford University states “There is no evidence from high quality trials that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of migraine and other forms of headache. The trials showing a significant benefit of acupuncture were of dubious methodological quality. Overall, the trials were of poor methodological quality.” They also reported “There were no high quality trials of acupuncture for stroke that showed that it was beneficial.”
Science does not support the use of electrical acupuncture.
NIH Consensus Statement
In 1997, the NIH issued a consensus statement on acupuncture that concluded that
there is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.
The statement was not a policy statement of the NIH but rather the assessment of a panel whose impartiality has been questioned by members of the NCAHF.
A note on scientifc methodology and acupuncture
One of the major criticisms of studies which purport to find that acupuncture is anything more than a placebo is that most such studies are not properly conducted. Many are not double blinded and are not randomised. However, since acupuncture is a procedure and not a pill, it is difficult to design studies in which the person providing treatment is blinded as to the treatment being given. The same problem arises in double-blinding procedures used in biomedicine, including virtually all surgical procedures, dentistry, physical therapy, etc.; the NIH Consensus Statement notes such issues with regard to sham acupuncture, a technique often used in studies purporting to be double-blinded. See also Criticism of evidence-based medicine.