Acupuncture is one of the most widely used and broadly researched of the complementary and alternative therapies, but high quality trials generally show no benefit over sham acupuncture. Many would view this result as evidence of ineffectiveness for this intervention.

This discussion paper focuses on the report of one large multi-centre randomised controlled trial of acupuncture for chronic low back pain in the lay and academic press, the ensuing discussion, and its impact on both clinical practice and service provision.

We suggest that interpretive bias has affected reporting, leading to questionable conclusions and advocacy in favour of this form of care which may exceed the evidence. We also suggest that a lack of understanding of research into the placebo effect may have contributed to confusion in the interpretation of these trials.


peer-reviewed, acupuncture, clinical trials, interpretive bias, back pain

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