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20/10/2010 - Does needling sensation (de qi) affect treatment outcome in pain? Analysis of data from a larger single-blind, randomised controlled trial.

Country: United Kingdom

Institute: School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO171BJ, UK.

Author(s): White P, Prescott P, Lewith G.

Journal: Acupunct Med. 2010 Sep;28(3):120-5.


BACKGROUND: Insertion of an acupuncture needle into an acupuncture point typically generates a range of sensations called 'de qi'. Most acupuncturists are taught that obtaining de qi is important when treating patients with pain but this can be quite uncomfortable for patients.

OBJECTIVE: This study assesses the importance of the strength of de qi, on the clinical outcome in osteoarthritic pain.

METHOD: This study was part of a larger randomised, single-blind, multifactorial trial involving three interventions: real acupuncture (RA), Streitberger needle (SN) and mock electrical stimulation for the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip and knee. Patients were treated twice a week for 4 weeks. The two outcomes relevant to this study were pain reduction assessed by visual analogue scale and the Park needling sensation questionnaire, both measured at completion of the study. Two arms of the trial were analysed (RA and SN). Reduction in pain was correlated against strength of de qi for both RA and SN. Those who felt de qi were compared with those who did not.

RESULTS: 147 patients were recruited to the study (140 completed) with a mean pain reduction of 15.2 mm and mean de qi score of 6.2. There was no significant correlation between the strength of de qi and improvement in pain (p=0.49). There was also no significant difference in pain relief (p=0.52) between those who felt de qi and those who did not using the de qi subscale of the Park questionnaire.

CONCLUSION: These data suggest that the presence and intensity of de qi has no effect on the pain relief obtained for patients with OA. This result may have implications for both acupuncture treatment and for future trial methodology.

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Pubmed ID: 20964256