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A body showing acu points with needles on each of the points.

In a recent clinical trial published in JAMA Network Open, researchers from the United States of America (USA) assessed and compared the effectiveness of acupuncture and massage therapy for musculoskeletal pain in 298 patients with advanced cancer.

They found that both treatments could reduce pain, fatigue, and insomnia in patients while improving their quality of life (QoL) over 26 weeks.

About the Study

A total of 298 patients with a mean age of 58.7 years were included in the trial, of which 67.1% were female.

The mean time post-diagnosis was 5.6 years, and the mean pain duration was 3.8 years. About 78.5% of patients had solid tumors, and 54.7% of patients received pain medications.

The patients were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to receive either acupuncture (n = 150) or massage (n = 148) via licensed and oncology-experienced therapists.


At the end of 26 weeks, more than 50% of patients receiving acupuncture or massage treatment showed a clinical response.

As compared to baseline, the patients receiving acupuncture or massage showed a reduction in the BPI worst pain score, fatigue, insomnia, dependence on pain medications, and an improved QoL. No significant difference was observed in the effectiveness of the two treatment types.

While the most common side effects of massage were transient soreness and headache, those of acupuncture were bleeding, localized pain, and bruising.

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