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The benefits of acupuncture: what you think is what you get, or is it?
  1. Karen J Sherman
  1. Correspondence to Karen J Sherman, Group Health Research Institute, 1730 Minor Avenue, Suite 1600, Seattle, Washington 98101, USA; sherman.k{at}ghc.org

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As a complex treatment, with many contextual aspects of the visit being potentially therapeutic, acupuncture has long been assumed to be more effective among those patients who believe that it will help them. A number of studies have indeed shown that acupuncture is more effective among such patients.1–3 However, not all rigorously conducted studies have found this to be true. For example, in a large 638 person trial we conducted of acupuncture for chronic back pain with acupuncture-naïve participants, we found that those with high pretreatment expectations for acupuncture showed greater expectations of improvement in general and showed greater preference for acupuncture.4 They were more likely to have heard that acupuncture was a very effective treatment and to have a very or moderately positive impression of acupuncture. However, such favourable beliefs towards acupuncture did not predict improvement in back-related function or pain at the end of 7 weeks of treatment or at the end of a year of follow-up. …

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