Evaluating the efficacy of acupuncture in defined aspects of stroke recovery: a randomised, placebo controlled single blind study

J Neurol. 2008 Jun;255(6):858-66. doi: 10.1007/s00415-008-0790-1. Epub 2008 May 13.


Objective: To investigate the efficacy of acupuncture on stroke recovery compared to an inert placebo.

Design: Placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical trial.

Setting: Post-stroke rehabilitation wards in five NHS hospitals in the UK.

Subjects: Patients between 4 and 10 days after their first stroke.

Interventions and outcome measures: The patients received 12 acupuncture or placebo treatments over four weeks. Acupuncture with electrical stimulation was compared with mock TENS, and assessments continued for 12 months after entry. Primary outcome was the Barthel Index (BI). Secondary outcomes were muscle power, Motricity Index (MI), mood, Nottingham Health Profile (NHP) and treatment credibility.

Results: 92 patients completed data sets. Data were analysed using both t tests and a structural equation based on longitudinal analysis of both BI and MI, using generalised estimating equations with an exchangeable correlation structure. While both acupuncture and placebo (mock TENS) appeared to have had an equal effect on stroke recovery, there is no significant difference between the two interventions at 12 (p = 0.737, 95 % CI -2.00 to 2.81) and 52 weeks (p = 0.371, 95 % CI -3.48 to 1.32). An apparently accelerated improvement in the MI scores in the acupuncture group at 3 weeks (p = 0.009, 95 % CI 1.55 to 10.77) is interesting.

Conclusions: Acupuncture did not demonstrate specific efficacy over placebo and both groups did as well as normally expected with this condition.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Acupuncture Therapy / standards
  • Acupuncture Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Electroacupuncture / standards
  • Electroacupuncture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Management
  • Placebo Effect
  • Placebos
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stroke / psychology
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos