What are the Conditions Benefiting from Acupuncture : the Scientific Perspective

In recent years, some governments have undertaken a review of the state of the science on the effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving health conditions. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, have notably carried out large-scale studies to this effect, producing the Acupuncture Evidence Maps (United States, 2014) and Alternative Therapies Review (Australia, 2010).

“ It is no longer possible to say that the effectiveness of acupuncture can be attributed to the placebo effect or that it is useful only for musculoskeletal pain!

– Steven Janz,
Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (2017)

The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review continued the synthesis work undertaken by these two institutions in order to integrate the most recent studies. Their 2017 report is one of the most up-to-date and comprehensive references on the state of acupuncture research. It analyzes the status of research on the use of acupuncture for 122 health conditions.

The reviewers grade acupuncture’s efficiency per health condition in 4 categories: 

1 – Scientific Evidence of Positive Effect
of acupuncture for the
health condition
8 conditions rate in this category:
migraine, headaches, chronic backpain, allergic rhinitis, knee osteoarthritis, chimiotherapy nausea and vomiting, post-operation nausea and vomiting, post-operation pain
2 – Scientific Evidence of a Potential Positve Effect
(The evidence are positive, important, but insuffisant in quality or quantity. More studies are needed.)
38 conditions rate in this category, including:
several types of pain, anxiety, constipation, depression, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, hotflashes, obesity, post-traumatic stress syndrome, restless leg syndrome, smoking cessation (first 3 months)
3-  Insuffisant or Contradictory Scientific Evidence
(The studies demonstrating positive evidence are of low quality or present contradictory evidence. More studies are needed.)
71 conditions rate in this category, including:
chronic fatigue syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, rhumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, inducing birth, some addictions, some fertility problems, post-partum depression, Alzheimer, ADHD, Bell’s palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome
4- No effect
(Scientific evidence demontrate no improvement)
5 conditions rate in this category :
some addictions (alcool, cocaine), epilepsy, pregnancy nausea, long term smoking cessation
Note: This is a summary, and I have included in the table only the most common conditions for which I am consulted in acupuncture. For the list of all 122 conditions and their level of scientific evidence, see the full report. It contains a wealth of information and references to a variety of scientific studies in acupuncture.

Acupuncture being a traditional medicine, its field of action has developed over millennia. Scientific research has not yet been able to cover the extent of its traditional use. As research progresses, we will have more information on the state of the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments on a growing spectrum of conditions.

To know the state of scientific research on a specific health condition, consult the Treated Conditions section or contact me. I will happily answer your questions.

To learn more :

Action Mechanisms Underlying Acupuncture

♦ Quality of Acupuncture Scientific Research