Acupuncture – My Thoughts on its use in Physiotherapy

Posted on by Ross Harris

Patients regularly ask me whether Acupuncture or Dry Needling would help their condition. I’ve always felt there isn’t sufficient evidence to support these treatments and a recent post by Adam Meakins (The Sports Physio) on social media further strengthened my opinions. The following summarises his post –

  1. Acupuncture is not an ancient treatment

Chairman Mao revived Acupuncture  in 1966 to cover up a lack of medical services at the time. It hadn’t been used in China for 1000’s of years. Colquhoun & Novella (2013) Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo. Anesthesia and Analgesia.

2. Acupuncture wasn’t a treatment for pain

Chinese warriors originally used acupuncture as a blood letting treatment to help infected wounds heal better. Colquhoun & Novella (2013) Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo. Anesthesia and Analgesia.

3. Acupuncture is not specific

It doesn’t matter where you stick the needles, you get the same effect. Moffet et al (2009) Sham acupuncture may be as efficacious as true acupuncture: a systematic review of clinical trials. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine.

4. Acupuncture doesn’t even need to puncture the skin

Toothpicks pressed on the skin work just as well as piercing the skin with a needle. Cherkin et al (2009) Acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine.

5. Acupuncture doesn’t reduce pain much at all

Paley & Johnson (2020) Acupuncture for the relief of Chronic Pain: a synthesis of systematic reviews. Medicina


In my opinion I don’t feel there is the evidence to back up the use acupuncture or dry needling with musculoskeletal conditions and any results seen from these treatments are most likely due to the placebo effect.



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