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J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Apr 10;140(3):604-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.01.052. Epub 2012 Feb 7.

Exploring practice characteristics and research priorities of practitioners of traditional acupuncture in China and the EU-A survey.

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London South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London, SE1 0AA, UK.



Acupuncture practice is based on the theoretical, historical and philosophical principles, which are part of Chinese medicine. Traditional acupuncture practitioners assess their patients' conditions using Chinese medicine diagnostic techniques, which determine clinical care and treatment. Little is known about differences in the perceptions of research evidence among practitioners in the European Union (EU) and China, given the diversity of acupuncture practice.


This study explored differences between practitioners of traditional acupuncture regarding perceived need for research evidence and prioritisation for future clinical trials, based on their practice within the EU and China. A convenience sample of acupuncturists in the EU (contacted by their professional organisation) and China (from geographically dispersed hospitals) were invited to participate in a survey, which was conducted during 2010/2011. Data collected included: practitioners' demographic details, country of training, practice setting, acupuncture techniques, perceived adverse event reporting, diagnostic methods, conditions commonly treated, conditions perceived as needing more evidence and practitioner perceptions of conditions which could demonstrate benefit if investigated in clinical trials.


From 1126 survey responses, 1020 (559 EU, 461 China) could be included in the analysis for direct comparison. A response rate for the EU could not be calculated but for China was 98%. Pain was the most frequently reported commonly treated condition by EU acupuncturists and neurological conditions (mainly stroke) for Chinese practitioners. The top reported priorities for research were obstetrics/gynaecological conditions in the EU and neurological problems in China.


The survey identified differences in practice and training between acupuncturists in China and the EU and between EU member states. These differences may inform prioritisation of health conditions for future trials. Innovative research methods are recommended to incorporate the complexity and plurality of acupuncture practice and theory. Creation of collaborative networks is crucial in overcoming these differences to facilitate international, multi-centre clinical trials.

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