Preliminary data suggest most acupuncture patients experience pain relief

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters Health) – Nearly 9 out of 10 people who underwent acupuncture report that the treatment relieved their pain, according to preliminary results of a large German study.

The study, involving some 40,123 patients, is the largest acupuncture study ever undertaken, according to the researchers. Study coordinator Dr. Hans-Joachim Trampisch from the Ruhr-University of Bochum said that in his opinion, previous studies on acupuncture did not involve enough patients or were not conducted scientifically.

"I am a medical statistician," he said. "I am not an advocate of acupuncture."

Of the patients in the study, 89.8% claimed that acupuncture treatments had resulted in relief from pain, according to a press release. Of those patients, around half had back pain, 26% had headaches, and 10% had knee or hip arthrosis.

Of the patients who experienced relief after the treatments, 50.7% did so within 2 weeks, usually after 4 treatments. Two percent of patients needed more than 10 treatments before feeling relief.

Severe side effects, such as local infection, occurred "very seldom," at a rate of "much less than 1%." The average age of study participants was around 58 years.

Dr. Trampisch stressed that the results from the study, dubbed gerac–for German acupuncture–were preliminary, and they would not reach a conclusion concerning acupuncture versus traditional medical treatments until the full study is completed.

The next phase of the research will be a randomized study, which will begin in July this year and last into the middle of 2003. Some 400 doctors will participate. Patients with chronic pain will receive either acupuncture or standard medical treatment. A final report is expected in 2004.

The study is being funded with 7.7 million euros from some of Germany's largest public health insurance companies.

According to gerac, 40,000 physicians in Germany use acupuncture on their patients. Of these physicians, 15,000 have had basic training in acupuncture techniques, while 1500 have undergone full training programs

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