Acupuncture can treat ‘unexplained symptoms’

31 May, 2011

Patients with medically unexplained symptoms are hard to treat and can cost the NHS twice as much as treating a patient with a definite diagnosis.

But British researchers have found that prescribing just 12 sessions of acupuncture can dramatically improve health and well being for these otherwise hard to treat patients.

The study, carried out by the Institute of Health Services Research, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, and published in the British Journal of General Practice, involved 80 adults who had been to their GP at least eight times in the past year with problems such as headaches, muscle pain, extreme tiredness, joint and back pain.

Half were sent for acupuncture, up to 12 sessions in six months. The rest were given no treatment. Those having acupuncture experienced a ‘significant and sustained’ benefit in their symptoms. In particular patients experienced a substantial change in their energy levels.

Where conventional treatment fails to find wither a diagnosis or a treatment, say the researchers, a course of acupuncture was an important option in treatment. Professor Andrew Gould, who led the study, confirmed that the problem of unexplained symptoms was common in medicine and acknowledged how important it was to be able to offer patients effective alternatives especially where conventional treatment wasn’t working.