Written by Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated December 16, 2015

Acupuncture for fatigue

Abstract and key points

  • Acupuncture usually entails the needling of specific points on the body surface.
  • The effectiveness of acupuncture for fatigue is not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
  • Serious complications of acupuncture exist but are probably very rare.

Acupuncture typically entails needling specific points of the body surface. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy, illness is caused by imbalances of energies in the body and acupuncture is a treatment that re-balances energies. Therefore, it is claimed by TCM-practitioners to be helpful in most human condition. By contrast, most Western acupuncturists follow the principles of conventional medicine and would employ acupuncture only for specific conditions. Acupuncture might be advocated for a wide range of conditions and symptoms, including cancer-related fatigue, particularly as some preliminary studies suggested beneficial effects. Even though some positive evidence exists to support this claim, the published data are both too scarce and too methodologically weak for allowing firm conclusions about the effectiveness of acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue.

Mild adverse effects, e.g. pain or bleeding at the site of acupuncture can be expected in about 10% of all cases, and serious complications, such as pneumothorax and hepatitis, seem to be very rare.

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of acupuncture at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Acupuncture for fatigue [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Acupuncture-for-fatigue. December 16, 2015.

Document history

Summary fully revised and updated in December 2015 by Karen Pilkington.
Summary first published in March 2013, authored by Edzard Ernst.

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