Most of you are probably not science nerds like me, but I was searching on google scholar for research articles on acupuncture published in 2013 or later and found one immediately on PLOS| One, which is an open access journal. I am in love. Open access! That means I can read the full article for free, instead of having to pay for somewhere around $40 or $50. Being in Bend, Oregon, without a medical library nearby, can sometimes be so frustrating!
In any case, the authors [Read the original article by MacPherson, et al.] looked at 31 studies of acupuncture for “non-specific back or neck pain, shoulder pain, chronic headache or osteoarthritis” “of at least four weeks duration,” and were able to obtain individual patient data from all but two studies. They found a dosing effect, meaning that the more sessions and the more needles used per session the more pain relief patients experienced. They don’t seem to have looked at the type of pain, but they did find that real acupuncture did better than sham acupuncture.
What I love best about this is not even so much their conclusions, but the fact that I can read the entire article, and it’s well-referenced, with hyperlinks to other articles. The devil, as the saying goes, is in the details. When I can’t read those details, because I can only read the abstract, I’m never quite sure if I believe the author’s conclusions.
In this case, I’m not sure yet. Meta analysis takes results from different studies, often small and inconclusive on their own, and attempts to combine them in order to conclude something strong. Since each study has a different protocol, and a different population, and its authors have their own particular biases, meta analysis can be tricky, but, in the world of human health, it can also be the only way to figure something out, for a lot of reasons. I’m going to have to read through this paper very carefully, and look at some of their references, before I understand what they’ve done.
I applaud these authors for publishing in an open access journal. At least I have the opportunity to read their paper, unlike so many others.
If you’re interested in acupuncture for relief of chronic pain, and you would like to schedule a session, give us a call at (541)420-1613. We’re located in Bend, OR
Wikipedia on open access – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access
PLOS on open access – http://www.plos.org/open-access/
Open Access week – http://www.openaccessweek.org/
Open Science – it’s more than just journal articles, it’s about data – http://openscience.com/