Acupuncture has been used for centuries as a form of alternative medicine, but is there any scientific evidence to support its use for treating certain conditions? Research has shown that acupuncture can be beneficial for a variety of painful conditions, such as back or neck pain, knee pain associated with osteoarthritis, and postoperative pain. However, further clinical testing is needed to determine its effectiveness in treating inflammation caused by real-world infections, such as COVID-19. In addition to the biochemical actions of acupuncture, studies have also demonstrated its direct effects on the central nervous system. Depending on the condition or injury, relief can be achieved with a single treatment, but it usually requires a series of sessions. Areas in which acupuncture therapies have demonstrated significant effects, supported by low or very low certainty evidence, are potential targets for future clinical trials.
In the brain, acupuncture has been shown to alter functional connectivity, reducing the activity of limbic structures associated with stress and illness, and improving the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This system is responsible for regulating hormones and the body's physiological response to stress. Nenggui Xu and his colleagues are advocating for more effective dissemination of evidence and research on promising acupuncture therapies. Spinal reflex effects have also been observed in which acupuncture stimulates muscle relaxation and changes in the visceral organs. Despite this evidence, there is still a lack of reliable data due to breaches committed by the industry.
It is clear that further research is needed to determine the efficacy of acupuncture in treating various conditions.