In this beautifully written report, "Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence," studies examining the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for a variety of medical conditions are meta-reviewed and summarized. Some findings:
* A 2013 network meta-analysis comparing physical treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee found that, when looking at high quality studies, acupuncture had the largest effect compared to usual care out of the conditions evaluated, out-performing exercise, sham acupuncture, and weight-loss.
* A 2015 network meta-analysis comparing treatments in addition to exercise for shoulder impingement syndrome found that acupuncture was the most effective adjunctive treatment out of 17 interventions, outperforming all other adjuncts such as steroid injection, NSAIDs, and ultrasound therapy.
* A 2016 comparison of 20 treatments for sciatica ranked acupuncture as 2nd most effective after the use of biological agents, outperforming manipulation, epidurals, disc surgery, opioids, exercise, and an invasive procedure called radiofrequency denervation, which came in last
* In 2018, a network-meta-analysis found that acupuncture was more effective than drugs for treating chronic constipation and with the fewest side-effects.
The report places the evidence for acupuncture in context by highlighting the overuse of many highly invasive medical procedures which lack scientific support. "With such high use of medical treatments that are more likely to harm than help, it becomes axiomatic that in many clinical situations, patients would be best served to start with safer treatments, such as acupuncture, when indicated."
Finally, the report discusses the current research on known mechanisms of acupuncture, a knowledge base which has grown significantly in recent years. This should be interesting to anyone with a little bit of biology background and a lot of curiosity about "how exactly does acupuncture work?!" See the full report here.