In order to assess how many reported adverse reactions to acupuncture are truly associated with the physiological mechanisms of acupuncture, we performed a literature review of published RCTs of acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee. We searched for reports of RCTs using two data sources: PubMed and Japana Centra Revuo Medicina (Igaku Chuo Zasshi). Of the twelve RCTs located, seven included information on adverse events. No serious adverse events were reported. Joint swelling, local inflammation, haematoma and back pain occurred more frequently in the dummy electroacupuncture or minimal acupuncture group. We confirmed the possibility that many adverse reactions to acupuncture treatment reported in RCTs, at least for the knee OA, are non-specific, and that not all reported events should be attributed to the mechanism of action of acupuncture. It is likely this is also true for RCTs of acupuncture in other conditions, and for prospective surveys on adverse events of acupuncture.
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