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Daniel More, MD

Can Acupuncture Actually Help Allergies?

By February 20, 2013

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The question of acupuncture helping allergies has been posed for years, and in the past the results were questionable. Acupuncture seems to help symptoms of allergies, but when compared to sham acupuncture (needles at sites without any meaning or significance), results were disappointing. Placebo effect is very strong, and therefore acupuncture treatment cannot be compared to no treatment -- rather acupuncture needs to be compared to sham acupuncture (placebo). A recent study compared the effects of acupuncture, sham acupuncture and no treatment in people with seasonal allergies. After a course of 12 acupuncture treatments over the course of 8 weeks, people receiving acupuncture treatments had less allergy symptoms compared to people receiving sham acupuncture or no acupuncture treatment. Unfortunately, the benefits didn't last beyond 8 weeks after the acupuncture treatment was stopped.

Therefore, there may be some limited, short-term benefit from acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis symptoms, but this benefit is short lived. It is not clear if continued acupuncture treatments would lead to ongoing benefit, and what the optimal course of treatment is for people with allergic rhinitis who choose acupuncture as a treatment for their symptoms.

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