Acupuncture cost effective for chronic pain

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A recent literature review concluded that acupuncture is a cost-effective treatment for many chronic pain conditions. Researchers from the UK synthesized findings of 8 studies examining the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for treating several chronic pain conditions. They also looked at the cost per a quality adjusted life year, or QALY. This analysis takes into account the disease burden, quality of life, years added by the intervention, and treatment cost. The researchers found that the cost per a QALY was well below the threshold frequently quoted by the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. In other words, acupuncture was relatively inexpensive when considering the improved quality of life it generates. In particular, acupuncture for migraine presented substantial costs savings and clinical benefits.

Previous research suggests that acupuncture can relieve symptoms of  neck pain, whiplash, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and more. In a recent study on acupuncture for chronic low back pain, the treatment lead to significant improvements in disability and pain compared to patients under usual care.  And a 2009 study found that acupuncture was more effective than a pain medication for treating sciatica.

Neuroimaging studies suggests that acupuncture activates the parts of the brain involved in relaxation while calming the areas of the brain responsible for registering pain. Additional studies show that acupuncture increases blood flow to the treated areas which reduces inflammation and pain.

A combination of acupuncture, chiropractic, and exercise could provide effective natural treatment for your chronic pain. Talk to your health practitioner to learn more.


Ambrósio EM, Bloor K, Macpherson H. Costs and consequences of acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain: A systematic review of economic evaluations conducted alongside randomised controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in  Medicine 2012;20(5):364-74.

Beck, Melinda. Decoding an ancient philosophy. The Wallstreet Journal. March 22,2010. Accessed August 13,2012.

Chen M, Wang P, Cheng G, et al. The warming acupuncture for treatment of sciatica in 30 cases. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2009; 29 (1): 50-3.

Vas J et al. Acupuncture in patients with acute low back pain: A multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. Pain 2012;153(9):1883-9.

Yun M, et al. Hegu acupuncture for chronic low-back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine 2011; 7(11):1015-9.

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