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  1. Richard Lehman, MA, MRCGP
  1. Department of Primary Care, Oxford University, Oxford, UK

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    Acupuncture has a huge literature—much of it written in Chinese ideographs—and finding methodologically sound studies is like looking for the proverbial acupuncture needle in a distant haystack. No one has tried harder than Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Peninsula Medical School in the south west of England. His latest systematic review is of acupuncture for labour pain (

    ), undertaken with Hyangsook Lee from Korea. They started with 390 papers and ended up with 3; these all show some reduction in analgesic use but are inconclusive due to insufficient blinding of the assessors. The methodology of these trials is a prickly issue: a UK study of acupuncture for chronic headache (
    ) used “usual care” as the comparator, but a Spanish trial for knee pain () used sham acupuncture. Both showed modest improvement. Traditional Chinese medicine would put this down to De-Qi, removing the stagnation of bad essences.Sure enough, acupuncture has even been tried for …

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