Although acupuncture is a well-established treatment for cancer pain and its effects have been widely reported in recent two decades, there is still controversy over whether its efficacy is better than placebo.
To evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture therapy on cancer pain.
Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2008), EMBASE, PubMed, ScienceDirect database, Current Controlled Trials, Chongqin VIP database and CNKI database were searched, and the search date ended in June 2008. The authors also hand-searched six Chinese Journals related to the question.
All randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing acupuncture therapy with placebo, Western drugs, Chinese herbal medicines, or comparing acupuncture therapy plus drug treatment with drug treatment.
Data extraction and analysis
Two separate evaluators assessed the quality of the included reports and extracted the useful information. Disagreements were resolved through discussion. Meta-analysis of the included trials was done with RevMan 5.0, and qualitative analysis was employed when meta-analysis was not appropriate.
Seven published RCTs with a total of 634 patients met the inclusion criteria, and the quality of one of the included trials was high. Due to flaws in design and reporting, meta-analysis was precluded, and only qualitative analysis was done on the majority of the reports. The high-quality trial showed that auricular acupuncture therapy was significantly superior to placebo in pain alleviation. The other six low-quality trials with non-placebo showed that acupuncture therapy had some positive effects.
Acupuncture is effective for pain relief. However, the poor quality of the majority of the trials reduces the reliability of the conclusion. More high-quality RCTs are needed to verify the effects.