Acupuncture as a Treatment Within Integrative Health for Palliative Care: A Brief Narrative Review of Evidence and Recommendations Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Background: Acupuncture is one of the fastest developing evidence bases in Complementary Medicine and is one of the leading therapies included within integrative health care. This narrative review includes two separate parts: the first is about evaluation of the current evidence status in reviews on acupuncture and the second examines and gives examples of available recommendations on acupuncture in treatment guidelines from health care experts and public health organizations recommending acupuncture as a viable treatment in patients in palliative care. Methods: Electronic searches were performed in PubMed using the terms "acupuncture" + "palliative" and adding the term "safety" to find review articles documenting safety and evidence of effectiveness of acupuncture for treatment of symptoms in palliative care patients. Treatment guidelines that recommend use of acupuncture for symptom control in palliative care were found by searching through a database currently under construction by the lead author. Results: Acupuncture shows emerging evidence for 17 indications in palliative care. Examples were found and presented of publications recommending acupuncture for treatment of symptoms for patients in palliative care from Government, public health, oncology, and medical expert sources. The most publications are in oncology, but other conditions were found and a number were found in pediatric care. Conclusions: While the evidence for use of acupuncture to treat symptoms in palliative care patients is relatively weak, the evidence base is growing. Experts worldwide are also increasingly recommending acupuncture as a treatment for symptoms in palliative care. Since acupuncture is a safe, nonpharmacological treatment but with small, clinically significant effects, these recommended uses appear as pragmatic efforts to bridge the gap of treatment options available to this patient group.


  • Birch, Stephen
  • Bovey, Mark
  • Alraek, Terje
  • Robinson, Nicola
  • Kim, Tae-Hun
  • Lee, Myeong Soo

publication date

  • September 1, 2020