Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = C
Acupuncture and electroacupuncture may not be effective for rheumatoid arthritis.

A Cochrane review 1 included two studies with 84 subjects. In the first study using acupuncture, no significant difference was found between groups for to erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), the visual analogue scale for pain (VAS P), the visual analogue scale for patient's global assessment (VAS G), the number of swollen joints, the number of tender joints, to the general health questionnaire (GHQ), the score on the modified disease activity scale (DAS) or in the decrease in analgesic intake. Although not statistically significant, pain in the treatment group improved by 4 points on a 0–100mm visual analogue scale versus no improvement in the placebo group.

In the second study, using electroacupuncture, a significant decrease in knee pain was reported in the experimental group, 24 hours post treatment, when compared to the placebo group (weighted mean difference of –2.0 with 95% CI –3.6,–4.0).


1. Casimiro L, Barnsley L, Brosseau L, Milne S, Robinson VA, Tugwell P, Wells G. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005 Oct 19;(4):CD003788.  [PMID:16235342]

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