What Does the Current Research tell us about the Effectiveness of Acupuncture?

Evidence of effectiveness underpins the validity of all health care interventions. Acupuncture has been practised for thousands of years. However, research into its effectiveness and cost effectiveness is in its relative infancy.1

It has been estimated that there is a 17-year time lag in translating clinical research into clinical Practice.2 This means the current evidence base for the effectiveness of acupuncture tends to lag the clinical results.

Below is the current evidence base of the effectiveness of acupuncture for various conditions:

Category 1:

  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Chronic Lower Back Pain
  • Headache (tension-type and chronic)
  • Knee Osteoarthritis
  • Migraine Prophylaxis
  • Post Operative Nausea, Vomiting and Pain
  • Post Operative Pain

Category 2:

  • Anxiety
  • Acute Lower Back Pain
  • Acute Stroke
  • Adult Asthma
  • Cancer Pain
  • Cancer Related Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Dry Eyes
  • Elbow Pain
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Labour Pain
  • Lower Back Pain during Pregnancy
  • Menopausal Hot Flushes
  • Modulating Sensory Perception Thresholds
  • Neck Pain
  • Obesity
  • Planter Heel Pain
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Smoking cessation (up to 3 months)
  • Temporomandibular Pain (TMJ)

Category 1 – Conditions with strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture. 1

Category 2 – Conditions with moderate evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture. 1


  1. McDonald,  J. & Janz, S. (2017). The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) Ltd. www.acupuncture.org.au.
  2. Morris, Z. S., Wooding. S. & Grant. J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: understanding time lags in translational research. J R Soc Med. 104(12):510-20.