Introduction: Anecdotally, acupuncture is used in the treatment of scar tissue in order to improve scar quality and reduce symptoms of pain and pruritus. Unlike conditions such as lower back pain, knee osteoarthritis and migraines, there are no systematic reviews to confirm treatment efficacy. This systematic literature review aims to assess the current level of evidence for the use of acupuncture for treating abnormal scars such as hypertrophic or other symptomatic scars.

Methods: A comprehensive database search was performed followed by reviewing reference lists, grey literature databases and Google Scholar. Study quality was assessed using the Oregon CONSORT STRICTA instrument (OCSI) for clinical trials and the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) checklist for case reports.

Results:The search strategy discovered five case studies, one retrospective cohort study, one cohort study and three clinical trials that investigated the use of acupuncture for scars. Studies rated as low to moderate quality (26–50%) on the OCSI checklist due to lack of detailed reporting, use of non-validated outcome measures and heterogeneity of participant cohorts. Three case studies rated as moderate quality (5–6/8) and two as low quality (<2/8) on the JBI checklist.

Discussion: All studies reported positive outcomes for the use of acupuncture for scar symptoms; however, treatment frequency, duration, number of treatments and points used varied between studies.

Conclusion: Acupuncture for the treatment of abnormal scars has a low level of evidence thus requiring further well-designed, controlled trials to be performed. Recommended treatment protocols for future studies have been provided.


acupuncture, dry needling, hypertrophic scar, burns, neurogenic inflammation

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