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Confidence in acupuncture ‘improves results’

By Nigel Praities

The attitude of the person administering acupuncture has a ‘small, but significant' effect on pain scores in people with knee osteoarthritis, researchers claim.

The randomised controlled trial – the first to control for communication style in this way - found acupuncture practitioners who appeared more confident in the treatment had better results.

They also found no difference in pain scores between traditional Chinese acupuncture and sham acupuncture, and concluded the trial showed the strength of the ‘placebo effect' in acupuncture.

The trial assigned over 500 people with knee osteoarthritis to receive traditional Chinese acupuncture and sham acupuncture, and others received no intervention.

The two intervention groups were then divided into those with ‘high' expectations (who used language such as ‘I think this could work for you', ‘I have had a lot of success with this') and a ‘low' expectations (‘It depends on the patient', 'It may or may not work for you').

Both traditional and sham methods were more effective at reducing pain compared with placebo - with J-MAP pain scores of 3.3 and 3.4 at three months – but there was no significant difference between the two interventions.

Those who had a practitioner with ‘high' expectations had better pain and satisfactory scores, compared with those with a ‘low' style. J-MAP scores were 3.2 and 3.6 respectively.

Dr Maria Suarez-Almazor, rheumatologist at the Department of General Medicine at the University of Texas, said: ‘We found a small, but significant effect on pain and satisfaction with treatment, demonstrating a placebo effect related to the clinician's communications style.'

Arthritis Care and Research; September 2010

Confidence in acupuncture 'improves results' in knee osteoathritis Read more on...

Acupuncture and other complementary therapies in our blog from Professor Edzard Ernst.