Challenges with heterogeneity of acupuncture

A critical review of the literature

There has been a substantial growth in research and interest regarding the field of acupuncture and its relation to physiotherapy. Up until now, there has been a poor effort to differentiate the various forms of interventions and techniques in the literature. As a result, there is a tendency to equate different methods of needle stimulation.

The aim of the present study was to assess the validity of the assumption that electrical acupuncture (EA) and mechanical acupuncture (MA) show similar evidence within the basic and clinical studies, and therefore can be interchangeable in practice. It was found that there are endemic methodological limitations in the studies - thus, the comparability of the two modalities is limited.

Principally, it was shown that few studies directly compare EA to MA and that it has been difficult to match the frequency, intensity and duration of MA to EA. As a result of this pitfall in both the basic and clinic sciences, it would be naïve to interchangeably utilize EA and MA.

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