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Chin J Integr Med. 2011 Mar;17(3):187-9. doi: 10.1007/s11655-011-0665-7. Epub 2011 Feb 27.

Acupuncture for pain: an overview of Cochrane reviews.

Author information

  • 1Brain Disease Research Center, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, South Korea. drmslee@gmail.com



Cochrane reviews have the reputation for being more transparent and rigorous than other reviews. The aim of this overview was to evaluate and summarize Cochrane reviews of acupuncture for the treatment of any type of pain.


We searched the Cochrane Database and evaluated the Cochrane reviews that were concerned specifically with the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain. Data were extracted according to pre-defined inclusion criteria by two independent reviewers.


Eight Cochrane reviews were included. They were all of high methodological quality. They related to a wide range of pain syndromes. Four reviews concluded that acupuncture is effective for migraines, neck disorders, tension-type headaches, and peripheral joint osteoarthritis; one review failed to demonstrate type the effectiveness of acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis; and three reviews were inconclusive for shoulder pain, lateral elbow pain, and low back pain.


Several Cochrane reviews of acupuncture for a wide range of pain conditions have recently been published. All of these reviews were of high quality. Their results suggest that acupuncture is effective for some but not all types of pain.

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