Acupuncture in oncological pain relief: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials

Michel Marcos Dalmedico, Caroline Machado de Toledo, Paula Karina Hembecker, Juliana Londero Silva Ávila, Chayane Karla Lucena de Carvalho, Sergio Ossamu Ioshii


Introduction: Cancer pain has a considerable impact on patients’ health and quality of life, and its treatment is essentially based on opioid use. Objective: To report the effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving cancer pain (secondary to the disease or to the corresponding therapy) or in decreasing opioid use compared to other interventions. Methods: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials was conducted following the guidelines of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. The trials were selected from the PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) databases. Results: The search strategy resulted in the inclusion of eight trials, of which five compared acupuncture and drug therapy and three compared acupuncture and placebo. Seven trials reported decreased pain and analgesic use. The trials showed clinical heterogeneity, making a meta-analysis unfeasible. Conclusion: The findings herein provided no robust evidence to support the routine use of acupuncture as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of cancer pain. However, its use is promising since the results showed a trend toward decreased pain and analgesic use, thus justifying further studies in the future.


Acupuncture. Cancer pain. Complementary therapies. Evidence-based clinical practice.



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