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Acupuncture for depression

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = C

Acupuncture is probably not effective in the treatment of depression.

A Cochrane review 1 included 30 studies with a total of 2,812 subjects with depression. The acupuncture varied in terms of point selection, frequency of treatments and total number of treatments administered. Nineteen trials used a standardised treatment protocol with a fixed selection of points administered at each acupuncture session. Acupunture was compared with with sham acupuncture, no treatment, pharmacological treatment, psychotherapy or standard care. There was insufficient evidence of a consistent beneficial effect from acupuncture compared with a wait list control or sham acupuncture control. A subgroup of participants with depression as a co-morbidity experienced a reduction in depression with acupuncture compared with SSRIs (RR 1.66, 95%CI 1.03 to 2.68, 3 trials, 94 participants). Two trials where acupuncture was used in combination with standard medication suggest some benefit with reducing symptoms of depression.

Comment: The quality of evidence is downgraded by study quality (inadequate allocation concealment) and inconsistency (heterogeneity in treatments, controls and outcomes).


1. Smith CA, Hay PP, Macpherson H. Acupuncture for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD004046.  [PMID:20091556]

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"Acupuncture for Depression." Evidence-Based Medicine Guidelines, Duodecim Medical Publications Limited, 2019. Evidence Central, evidence.unboundmedicine.com/evidence/view/EBMG/454180/all/Acupuncture_for_depression.
Acupuncture for depression. Evidence-Based Medicine Guidelines. Duodecim Medical Publications Limited; 2019. https://evidence.unboundmedicine.com/evidence/view/EBMG/454180/all/Acupuncture_for_depression. Accessed March 21, 2019.
Acupuncture for depression. (2019). In Evidence-Based Medicine Guidelines. Available from https://evidence.unboundmedicine.com/evidence/view/EBMG/454180/all/Acupuncture_for_depression
Acupuncture for Depression [Internet]. In: Evidence-Based Medicine Guidelines. Duodecim Medical Publications Limited; 2019. [cited 2019 March 21]. Available from: https://evidence.unboundmedicine.com/evidence/view/EBMG/454180/all/Acupuncture_for_depression.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Acupuncture for depression ID - 454180 BT - Evidence-Based Medicine Guidelines UR - https://evidence.unboundmedicine.com/evidence/view/EBMG/454180/all/Acupuncture_for_depression PB - Duodecim Medical Publications Limited DB - Evidence Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -