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Acupuncture in osteoporosis: more evidence is needed
  1. Jenson C S Mak1,2
  1. 1Department of Geriatric Medicine, Gosford Hospital, Gosford, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research, Sydney Medical School Northern, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jenson C S Mak, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Gosford Hospital, Holden Street, Gosford, NSW 2250, Australia; jenson.mak{at}health.nsw.gov.au

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Osteoporosis is a term that encompasses both a risk factor for bone fragility (low bone density) and a condition of fragility (fractures).1 About a third of new fractures come to medical attention, suggesting that, in reality, most are either asymptomatic or have tolerable symptoms.2 These fractures, especially hip fractures, frequently result in a short- or long-term need for a higher level of care, and are associated with increased mortality.3

Alternative treatments

Evidence for a role of calcium and vitamin D in preventing fractures are mainly confined to those with hypovitaminosis D or from aged care homes, with strong evidence of mild anti-fracture efficacy.4 Given the adverse effects of prolonged oestrogen therapy, including an increased risk of myocardial infarction and breast cancer,5 and the rare but potentially serious side-effects of common osteoporosis medications (bisphosphonates, raloxifene, denosumab and teriparatide),6 the quest for alternative treatments to boost bone mineral density (BMD), and indeed to prevent fractures, have focused upon complementary treatments with a good safety profile, such as acupuncture.

Worldwide, acupuncture is integral to everyday medical practice. In recent decades its practice has gained popularity in Western countries. With increasing evidence of its clinical efficacy, acupuncture is now a …

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