What can acupuncture treat according to evidence based research?

Acupuncture has been around a long time..according to historical records, around a few thousand years. However in today's contemporary society, science is the basis to modern medicine and so scientific studies are needed to prove if a drug or therapy works. Hence we have evidence based research that takes place..

However it can take 10 years for evidence based research to be put into evidence based practice. For acupuncture, which is one of the modalities that falls under Chinese medicine, this research just merely just reinforces what acupuncture can treat.

Here is a list of conditions and a link to good research papers (peer reviewed systematic reviews) of moderate to high level research which shows that acupuncture can effectively treat the below conditions:

A big thank you to my colleague John McDonald from the Acupuncture Now Foundation who collated all this research for various conditions below:


Linde  K, Allais  G, Brinkhaus  B, Manheimer  E, Vickers  A, White  AR. Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub2.

Chronic lower back pain

Xiang Y, He J, Tian H, Cao B, Li R. Evidence of efficacy of acupuncture in the management of low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo- or sham-controlled trials. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2020;38(1):15-24. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2017-011445

From RACGP website

The International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (2018). Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture Interventions for the Treatment of Musculoskeletal Conditions. Technical Report. Prepared for the Accident Compensation Corporation, New Zealand.

Neck pain

Farag AM, Malacarne A, Pagni SE, Maloney GE. The effectiveness of acupuncture in the management of persistent regional myofascial head and neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complement Ther Med. 2020;49:102297. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102297

Shoulder pain

Dong W, Goost H, Lin XB, Burger C, Paul C, Wang ZL, et al. Treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome: a PRISMA systematic review and network meta-analysis (2015), Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Mar;94(10):e510. Retrieved from

Lateral elbow pain

Gadau M, Yeung WF, Liu H, et al. Acupuncture and moxibustion for lateral elbow pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:136. Published 2014 Apr 12. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-136

Knee osteoarthritis

Li J, Li YX, Luo LJ, et al. The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis: An overview of systematic reviews. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(28):e16301. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000016301

Plantar heel pain

Clark RJ, Tighe M. The effectiveness of acupuncture for plantar heel pain: a systematic review. Acupunct Med. 2012;30(4):298-306. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2012-010183

Labour pain

Smith CA, Collins CT, Crowther CA, Levett KM. Acupuncture or acupressure for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD009232. Published 2011 Jul 6. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009232

Hot flushes from menopause

Chiu HY, Pan CH, Shyu YK, Han BC, Tsai PS. Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women in natural menopause: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause. 2015;22(2):234-244. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000000260


Choi S-M, Park J-E, Li S-S, Jung H, Zi M, Kim T-H, Jung S, Kim A, Shin M, Sul J-U, Hong Z, Jiping Z, Lee S, Liyun H, Kang K, Baoyan L. “A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis.” Allergy 2013; 68: 365–374

John L. McDonald, Allan W. Cripps, Peter K. Smith, Caroline A. Smith, Charlie C. Xue, and Brenda Golianu, “The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture and Their Relevance to Allergic Rhinitis: A Narrative Review and Proposed Model,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 591796, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/591796


Cancer pain

Chiu HY, Hsieh YJ, Tsai PS. Systematic review and meta-analysis of acupuncture to reduce cancer-related pain. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2017;26(2):10.1111/ecc.12457. doi:10.1111/ecc.12457

Anxiety and Stress

Amorim, D., Amado, J., Brito, I., Fiuza, S. M., Clinical, N. A. T. I., 2018. (n.d.). Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: A systematic review of the clinical research. Elsevier.