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Acupuncture effective for treating ageing-related disorders

Dr. Joseph Delano Fule Robles
19 Mar 2018

Acupuncture has been offered as a treatment option for a wide range of conditions. Recent evidence suggests that it can help in the management of ageing-related diseases.

“Recent evidence has shown that acupuncture can be useful as adjunct therapy for osteoarthritis, chronic pain, hypertension, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, Alzheimer’s disease, prostatic hyperplasia, menopausal symptoms and stress urinary incontinence,” said Professor Lixing Lao of the School of Chinese Medicine, The University of Hong Kong.

A randomized controlled trial (RCT) in 570 patients with osteoarthritis of the knees showed that patients who received acupuncture experienced greater improvement vs the sham group in terms of the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) function score (mean difference, -2.5; p=0.01), WOMAC pain score (mean difference, -0.87; p=0.003), and patient global assessment (mean difference, 0.26; p=0.02). [Ann Intern Med 2004;141:901-910]

“Osteoarthritis is a very common problem in the ageing population. Patients are concerned about the side effects associated with the use of Western medicine for this condition,” commented Lao.

A meta-analysis of 39 studies, which included over 20,000 patients, showed that the benefits of acupuncture were durable for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain, headache, and osteoarthritis pain. [J Pain 2017, pii: S1526-5900(17)30780-0]

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 23 trials, which included 1,788 patients, revealed that acupuncture combined with antihypertensive medications was more effective on the magnitude of change in systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure (SBP mean difference, -7.47; DBP mean difference, -4.22). [PLoS One 2015;10: e0127019]

“The study showed that acupuncture has an add-on effect for Western medicine [for the treatment of hypertension],” Lao said. “Likewise, a systematic review of 25 RCTs [n=1,649] showed that acupuncture, when combined with mecobalamin treatment, provided effective symptomatic improvement in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy .” [PLoS One 2013;8:e73764]

“As shown in another meta-analysis of 10 RCTs [n=585], acupuncture might either be more effective than drugs or enhance the effect of drugs in terms of improving cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease,” he added. [Medicine (Baltimore) 2015;94:e933]

In a systematic review and meta-analysis of eight RCTs in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (n=661), acupuncture showed better improvement in the International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS mean difference, -1.90) vs sham acupuncture after 46 weeks. [PLoS One 2017;12:e0174586]

“Among ageing women, acupuncture was also shown to be useful in two RCTs for decreasing vasomotor symptoms in menopausal patients [p<0.001 for between-group comparison] and decreasing urinary leakage in stress urinary incontinence [acupuncture vs sham group mean difference, 7.4 g; p<0.001],” added Lao. [Menopause 2016;23:626-637; JAMA 2017;317:2493-2501]

“In recent years, RCTs and meta-analyses have demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture, resulting in more patients and healthcare practitioners accepting acupuncture as a treatment modality. However, more applicable and innovative research that can reflect the effect of acupuncture in daily clinical practice settings is still warranted,” he concluded. [J Acupunct Meridian Stud 2015;8:270-273]

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