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Acupuncture for Asthma

Clinical bottom line: Based on a small number of randomised, double-blind trials, acupuncture is not effective for the treatment of asthma or asthma-like symptoms. None of the studies produced statistically significant results for acupuncture for the main outcome measures of lung function. For the other outcomes, studies were generally negative, with few positive outcomes.

Asthma is a significant health problem affecting between 8% and 12% of children. Although symptoms can be well controlled with drug therapy, increasingly, patients are seeking alternative, non-drug therapies to manage this disease.

Systematic review:

Linde K; Jobst K; Panton J. Acupuncture for chronic asthma. (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2000. Oxford: Update Software.

Date review completed: October 1998

Number of trials included: 7

Number of patients: A total of 174 patients in active and control groups

Control groups: placebo/sham acupuncture controls

Main outcomes: lung function (peak flow rates and forced expiratory volume), medication use, quality of life, global assessment

Inclusion criteria were randomised or quasi-randomised, sham controlled trials; acupuncture with needles inserted at traditional or non-traditional points with manual, laser or electrical stimulation or other forms of stimulation at acupuncture points; adults or children; asthma or asthma-like symptoms.

The authors conducted a comprehensive search of relevant databases (Medline and CISCOM), reference lists of retrieved reports, and authors were contacted for additional data. Adequacy of acupuncture was assessed by one of the reviewers. Methodological quality of included studies was assessed using the Oxford Rating Scale (scale, 1 to 5) (Jadad et al., 1996). Reviewers provided a descriptive summary of trial findings and vote count of the outcome. Quantitative analysis of trial results was not possible due to disparate design and quality of all included trials.


Included trials differed with respect to types of patient and diagnosis, outcome measures, methodological quality, and type and duration of acupuncture treatment and controls. All trials attempted to blind observers and patients, but were on small numbers of patients (less than 30). Quality scores of included trials were not reported in the review.

Generally the trials were all negative. For the main outcome measure of lung function, none of the trials showed a statistically significant difference for acupuncture over placebo. Only one trial found a statistically significant decrease in medication use over placebo after two weeks of treatment. One trial reported a significant increase over placebo in six-minute walking distance, and two trials reported significant improvements over placebo for subjective measures (not specified what these were).

Adverse effects

Few of the trials evaluated side effects and were not summarised by the reviewers.


There is no evidence that acupuncture has any benefit for asthma.

Further reading

Linde K; Worku F; Stor W; Wiesner-Zechmeister M; Pothmann R; Weinschutz T; Melchart D. Randomised clinical trials of acupuncture for asthma - a systematic review. 1996. Forsch Komplementarmed; 3:148-155

Jadad AR, Moore RA, Carrol D, McQuay HJ. Assessing the quality of reports of randomised clinical trials:Is blinding necessary? Controlled Clinical Trials. 1996; 17:1-12

Related topics


Identifier AP002 - 5773 ACUPUNCTURE FOR ASTHMA: Jan-2000