Acupuncture for rheumatic conditions: an overview of systematic reviews

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Oct;49(10):1957-61. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq180. Epub 2010 Jun 29.


Objective: Several systematic reviews (SRs) have assessed the effectiveness of acupuncture for rheumatic conditions, often with contradictory conclusions. Our aim is to provide a critical evaluation and summary of these data.

Methods: Electronic searches were conducted in 15 databases to locate all SRs on acupuncture for rheumatic conditions published since 2000. Data were extracted by the authors according to pre-defined criteria.

Results: We found 30 SRs that met our inclusion criteria. They related to the following rheumatic conditions: FM, low back pain, lateral elbow pain, musculoskeletal pain, orthopaedic diseases, OA, RA, shoulder pain, frozen shoulder, neck disorder, AS and sciatica. Their conclusions were in several instances contradictory. Relatively clear evidence emerged to suggest that acupuncture is effective for OA, low back pain and lateral elbow pain and ineffective for FM and RA.

Conclusion: Many SRs have recently been done. Only for OA, low back pain and lateral elbow pain is the evidence sufficiently sound to warrant positive recommendations of this therapy in routine care of rheumatic patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Rheumatic Diseases / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome