Although a relative newcomer to Western societies, Acupuncture has been practiced for over 2500 years in Asia as a branch of what is now known as Chinese Medicine.
Acupuncture has been used as a whole system of medicine, to diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions, from gynaecological and digestive issues to different types of pain.
Although Western medicine has been slow to accept Chinese Medicine as a valid form of treatment, positive clinical outcomes has led to the substantial growth of Acupuncture in the West.
In fact, these days it is hard to find a physiotherapist who does not use ‘dry needling’ as a form of treatment due to its speed and effectiveness in decreasing pain.
This increase in usage of Acupuncture has led to a lot of research into its mechanisms of action and effectiveness, with mixed results. But for many medical bodies, the evidence of its effectiveness is now substantial enough to recommend it for certain conditions.
Some of these recommendations are outlined below.
In the UK, the National Institute for Care and Excellence (NICE) released their guidelines in 2021 that recommended Acupuncture as a first line treatment for chronic primary pain, to be used before medications such as NSAIDs and Opioids.
They decided on this approach after finding that there was sufficient evidence to show that Acupuncture is an effective treatment for management of chronic pain and also cost-effective.
In 2017, the American College of Physicians released their evidence-based guidelines for treating low back pain, and included Acupuncture as one of the recommended first-line treatments. Medications such as NSAIDs and Opioids were to be used once again only as secondary treatments.
In Australia, all Acupuncturists are required to be registered with the Australian Health and Prudential Regulation Authority (AHPRA), the same body that registers Medical Doctors, Physiotherapists and others.
If you would like to know more about the research into Acupuncture regarding a specific condition, a good resource is the Acupuncture Evidence Project written by researchers from Griffith University in Australia.