Acupuncture and MS: The Literature Is Lacking

October 13, 2014
Sreeram Ramagopalan, PhD

Studies suggest that acupuncture can improve MS-related symptoms, but poor design makes it difficult to draw robust conclusions.

The use of acupuncture to treat patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) is fairly common, but little literature exists about studies of its effectiveness. The purpose of this study was to review the literature on the use of acupuncture to treat patients with MS.

In performing a literature search, the researchers identified 12 peer-reviewed articles on the subject that examined the use of acupuncture to manage MS-related quality of life, fatigue, spasticity, and pain. They found that many studies showed a positive effect of acupuncture in patients with MS.

However, most of the studies were poorly designed without control groups, patient randomization, or patient and assessor blinding. In addition, description of the subjects, interventions, and outcome measures often was lacking or minimal as was statistical analysis.

In conclusion, although many of the studies suggested that acupuncture is successful in improving MS-related symptoms, poor study design makes it difficult to draw any robust conclusions about the true effectiveness of this intervention. Further studies with more rigorous designs and analysis are needed before accurate claims can be made as to the effectiveness of acupuncture in patients with MS.

The findings of this review on acupuncture treatment in MS are clearly disappointing, and unsurprising. The researchers found that the body of published literature on the effectiveness of acupuncture for MS-related symptoms is poor. However, further studies will be hard to do-it is very difficult, if not impossible, to blind acupuncture studies or to use a placebo.

References:

1. Karpatkin HI, Napolione D, Siminovich-Blok B. Acupuncture and multiple sclerosis: a review of the evidence. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:972935. doi: 10.1155/2014/972935. Epub 2014 Jun 18.