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Is acupuncture an effective postherpetic neuralgia treatment? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Authors Pei W, Zeng J, Lu L, Lin G, Ruan J

Received 30 December 2018

Accepted for publication 24 May 2019

Published 16 July 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 2155—2165

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S199950

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Cristina Weinberg

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon


Wenya Pei,1 Jingchun Zeng,2 Liming Lu,3 Guohua Lin,2 Jingwen Ruan1

1Department of Acupuncture, the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, People’s Republic of China; 2Department of Acupuncture, The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China; 3Clinical Medical Center, South China Research Center for Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Medical College of Acu-Moxi and Rehabilitation, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Background: Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) refers to pain which remains after the healing of rashes from herpes zoster. Previous literatures have shown that acupuncture has potential benefits for PHN, but evidence remains lacking. Thus, we have performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of PHN.
Methods: Six databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the effects of acupuncture on PHN. After selecting the studies, extracting the data, and assessing study quality, meta-analysis was performed on several of the studies with RevMan 5.3. The GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment Development and Evaluation) system was used to assess the overall quality of the evidence.
Results: Acupuncture helps relieve pain intensity (standardized mean difference [SMD]: −1.78, 95% confidence interval [CI]: −2.36 to −1.21). For other intervention types, electroacupuncture (SMD: −1.28, 95% CI: −2.51 to −0.05), fire needle (SMD: −2.23, 95% CI: −2.62 to −1.84), bloodletting and cupping (SMD: −2.46, 95% CI: −2.95 to −1.97) have better effects on pain intensity relief. To date, no study has reported on the onset of pain relief time. The Hamilton Anxiety Scale score (SMD: −18.94, 95% CI: −37.37 to −0.52) was lower for the acupuncture group than for the control group. It was also found that acupuncture can improve quality of life (QOL) (SMD: 3.78, 95% CI: 2.50 to 5.06). The quality of evidence for acupuncture for PHN pain intensity was moderate according to the GRADE system.
Conclusion: Acupuncture may reduce pain intensity, relieve anxiety and improve quality of life in patients with PHN. Further randomized trials with larger sample sizes and of higher methodological quality are needed to confirm these results.

Keywords: acupuncture, postherpetic neuralgia, systematic review


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