The National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is 1 of 27 divisions of the National Institute of Health (NIH). The NCCAM sponsors and conducts research on acupuncture using scientific methods and advanced technologies. They have studied acupuncture for a wide range of pain conditions, such as postoperative dental pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headache, low-back pain, menstrual cramps, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, and tennis elbow.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – A 1997 National Institute of Health consensus statement on acupuncture concluded that acupuncture was promising for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Headache/Migraine – A 2008 review of randomized trials on acupuncture highlighted a few well-designed trials whose findings indicate that acupuncture reduces migraine symptoms and is as effective as headache medications. In addition, a 2009 review found that acupuncture may help relieve tension headaches.
Low Back Pain – According to clinical practice guidelines issued by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians in 2007, acupuncture is one of several CAM therapies physicians should consider for patients with chronic low back pain. Acupuncture combined with conventional medicine may be more effective than either treatment alone.
Menstrual Cramps – Literature reviews have suggested that acupuncture may help with pain relief from menstrual cramps.
Neck Pain – Studies of acupuncture for chronic neck pain have found that acupuncture does provide pain relief for chronic neck pain.
Osteoarthritis/Knee Pain – Acupuncture appears to be effective for osteoarthritis, particularly in the area of knee pain. Recent literature reviews have found that acupuncture provides pain relief and improves function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Post Operative Dental Pain – An article published in the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine (2004) states, “General international agreement has emerged that acupuncture appears to be effective for post-operative dental pain and postoperative nausea and vomiting.”
Tennis Elbow – Recent reviews have found the evidence promising, noting strong evidence that acupuncture provides pain relief for lateral epicondyle pain.
Side Effects and Risks
The National Institute of Health reports that, “Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Relatively few complications from acupuncture have been reported. Serious adverse events related to acupuncture are rare, but include infections and punctured organs. Additionally, there are fewer adverse effects associated with acupuncture than with many standard drug treatments (such as anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections) used to manage painful musculoskeletal conditions like fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, and tennis elbow.”