NIH Review Study Finds Tai Chi, Yoga and Acupuncture Effective For Treatment of Pain

November 3, 2016 Joe Brady

NIH Review Study Finds Nondrug Approaches such as, Tai Chi, Yoga and Acupuncture Effective For Treatment of Pain

Millions of Americans suffer from persistent pain that may not be fully relieved by medications. They often turn to complementary medicine to help, yet primary care providers have lacked good evidence to guide recommendations. This new review gives doctors tools to help manage that pain.

A review of clinical trials published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest that some of the most popular complementary health approaches—such as yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture—appear to be effective tools for helping to manage common pain conditions. The review was conducted by a group of scientists from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health.
“For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain,” said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., NCCIH’s lead epidemiologist and lead author of the analysis. “Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain.”
The researchers reviewed 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials, from the past 50 years, including 16,000 patients for one or more of five painful conditions—back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine—and found promise in the following for safety and effectiveness in treating pain:
Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
Acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee
Massage therapy for neck pain with adequate doses and for short-term benefit
Relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraine.
Read more about this report at
Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2016;91(9):1292–1306.