Are acupoints specific for diseases? A systematic review of the randomized controlled trials with sham acupuncture controls

Hongwei Zhang, Zhaoxiang BIAN, Zhixiu Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The results of many clinical trials and experimental studies regarding acupoint specificity are contradictory. This review aims to investigate whether a difference in efficacy exists between ordinary acupuncture on specific acupoints and sham acupuncture controls on non-acupoints or on irrelevant acupoints.Methods: Databases including Medline, Embase, AMED and Chinese Biomedical Database were searched to identify randomized controlled trials published between 1998 and 2009 that compared traditional body acupuncture on acupoints with sham acupuncture controls on irrelevant acupoints or non-acupoints with the same needling depth. The Cochrane Collaboration's tool for assessing risk of bias was employed to address the quality of the included trials.Results: Twelve acupuncture clinical trials with sham acupuncture controls were identified and included in the review. The conditions treated varied. Half of the included trials had positive results on the primary outcomes and demonstrated acupoint specificity. However, among those six trials (total sample size: 985) with low risk of bias, five trials (sample size: 940) showed no statistically significant difference between proper and sham acupuncture treatments.Conclusion: This review did not demonstrate the existence of acupoint specificity. Further clinical trials with larger sample sizes, optimal acupuncture treatment protocols and appropriate sham acupuncture controls are required to resolve this important issue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalChinese Medicine
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

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