Acupuncture for lateral elbow pain

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = D
There is insufficient evidence from controlled trials to either support or refute the use of acupuncture in the treatment of lateral elbow pain.

A Cochrane review 1 included 4 studies with a total of 239 subjects. Due to flaws in study designs, uncertain allocation concealment, and clinical differences between trials, data from trials could not be combined for meta-analysis. One trial found needle acupuncture to result in pain relief for longer than placebo (WMD = 18.8 hours, 95% CI 10.1 to 27.5). A second trial demonstrated an overall participant reported improvement than placebo in the short term (RR 0.09, 95% CI 0.01 0.64). Two trials demonstrated no differences between laser acupuncture and placebo, or acupuncture plus vitamin B12 and vitamin B12 alone. No benefit lasting for more than 24 hours could be demonstrated in the trials.

Comment: The quality of evidence is downgraded by severe study limitations and sparse data.


1. Green S, Buchbinder R, Barnsley L, Hall S, White M, Smidt N, Assendelft W. Acupuncture for lateral elbow pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002;(1):CD003527.  [PMID:11869671]

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