To test the hypothesis that classical Chinese acupuncture provides an additional benefit subjectively as well as objectively in patients suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective trial was performed. Fourteen patients suffering clinically and scintigraphically from acute CRPS of the upper limb lasting of more than one but less than 6 months were studied. Patients were randomly assigned to either the classical acupuncture (group A) or sham acupuncture (group S), which was applied five times a week for three weeks and required 30 minutes. Both groups received the same defined standard treatment. The current state of pain was assessed by means of a visual analogue scale. Subjective success of treatment was rated by the patients by means of a rating scale. Each patient underwent a clinical examination and was investigated by 5-phase bone scan in order to confirm the diagnosis. The current state of pain as well as clinical parameters were almost identical in patients of group A and of group S at the beginning. During therapy clinical parameters as well as pain improved in both groups and reached nearly normal levels after 6 months. Owing to the small number of patients in our study, no differences between sham and treatment group could be recognized. For a definitive statement the treatment of further patients in both groups is planned. Determinations of the effect of acupuncture on clinical parameters, based on long-term follow-ups are projected.