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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Apr 12;2018:8596918. doi: 10.1155/2018/8596918. eCollection 2018.

Clinical Efficacy of Acupuncture on Rheumatoid Arthritis and Associated Mechanisms: A Systemic Review.

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School of Chinese Medicine, College of Chinese Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan.
Department of Rehabilitation, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan.



The objective of this review is to investigate the detailed existing scientific information about the clinical efficacy of acupuncture on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) conditions and to reveal the proposed mechanisms.


We searched the PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine), NCCAM (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), and CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) databases to identify relevant monographs and related references from 1974 to 2018. Chinese journals and theses/dissertations were hand searched.


43 studies were recruited. Each research was analyzed for study design, subject characteristics, intervention, selected acupoints, assessment parameters, proposed mechanisms, and results/conclusions.


In our review, we concluded that acupuncture alone or combined with other treatment modalities is beneficial to the clinical conditions of RA without adverse effects reported and can improve function and quality of life and is worth trying. Several important possible mechanisms were summarized including anti-inflammatory effect, antioxidative effect, and regulation of immune system function. However, there is still inconsistency regarding the clinical efficacy and lack of well-designed human/animal double-blinded RCTs. Future discussion for further agreement on taking traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory into consideration as much as possible is a top priority.

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