Acupuncture in clinical neurology

Alejandro A. Rabinstein, Lisa M. Shulman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND - A majority of people in the United States use alternative or complementary therapy at some point in their lives, and acupuncture is among the most frequently used modalities. Many United States medical schools offer courses in alternative medicine, and a growing number of insurers offer coverage for alternative therapies. This paper critically reviews our current knowledge about the safety and efficacy of acupuncture for neurologic conditions. REVIEW SUMMARY - Acupuncture is a safe procedure when performed by trained professionals. Complications from acupuncture are rare and mainly related to negligence of sterile technique. Studies of the therapeutic value of acupuncture are fraught with challenging methodologic problems, including the choice of a placebo, a suitable control treatment, and the technique of stimulation applied. Clinical trials of the use of acupuncture for pain syndromes (headache, neck, and back pain), stroke rehabilitation, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and substance abuse are reviewed. CONCLUSIONS - Based on the current literature, no definitive recommendation can be made regarding the efficacy of acupuncture for common pain syndromes including headache, and neck and back pain. Better quality clinical trials fail to demonstrate efficacy for the use of acupuncture as part of a rehabilitation program following stroke or as a treatment for drug addiction. Acupuncture may have a role in the treatment of sleep disturbance associated with Parkinson's disease but was not efficacious for the primary symptoms of either Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. In light of increasing public interest and use of alternative therapies, this review may be helpful in promoting more discussion between patients and physicians about the use of acupuncture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2003


  • Acupuncture therapy
  • Complementary therapy
  • Pain
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Acupuncture in clinical neurology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this