Acupuncture seems to be beneficial in treating headaches and shows promise in the treatment of chronic pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances according to a new review of reviews in the October issue of Systematic Reviews. The study, titled “The Effectiveness of Acupuncture Research across Components of the Trauma Spectrum Response: A Systematic Review of Reviews” was written by researchers at Samueli Institute in Alexandria, Virginia and in collaboration with Integrative Healing in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Co-existing symptoms (for example, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and fatigue) are common in military fighters who have experienced physical and/or psychological trauma. These overlapping conditions cut across the boundaries of mind, brain and body, resulting in a common symptomatic and functional spectrum of physical, cognitive, psychological and behavioral effects referred to as the ‘Trauma Spectrum Response’ (TSR).

Graphic of TSR

“A recent study funded in part by Samueli Institute, published in Archives of Internal Medicine in September, showed that acupuncture successfully treats headaches and back pain. Now there is evidence that it treats a whole spectrum of symptoms,” said Samueli Institute President and CEO Wayne B. Jonas, MD. “It is now clear that complementary and integrative medicine has a role to play in the treatment of our nation’s soldiers and other patients.”

While acupuncture has been shown to effectively treat some TSR components, the current literature is often inconsistent or difficult to interpret. This systematic review of reviews was conducted using the Samueli Institute’s Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Literature (REAL©) methodology to determine how effective acupuncture is in treating TSR symptoms.

Based on the author’ analysis of 51 high-quality reviews, acupuncture was found to be effective for treating headaches and is a promising treatment option for anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression and chronic pain. More data is required to determine whether acupuncture effectively treats post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexual dysfunction, fatigue or cognitive difficulties. 

“The implications of this study for members of the military are huge,” said Jonas, “Based on these results the next logical step is a randomized control trial on warfighters suffering from these trauma symptoms, and ultimately some relief.”

Samueli Institute has worked collaboratively with the U.S. military for more than a decade to apply rigorous science and evaluate the impact of complementary and integrative medicine on the symptoms related to the TSR. 

The study in Systematic Reviews was authored by Courtney Lee, Cindy Crawford, Dawn Wallerstedt, Alexandra York, Alaine Duncan, Jennifer Smith, Meredith Sprengel, Richard Welton, and Wayne Jonas.