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An investigation into the effectiveness of traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA) for chronic stress in adults: a randomised controlled pilot study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Weidong Huang, Judith Howie, Alyx Taylor, Nicola Robinson

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalComplementary therapies in clinical practice
Issue number1
PublishedFeb 2011

King's Authors


Aims: The aim of this exploratory, pragmatic randomised controlled trial was to investigate the effectiveness of traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA), using an individually targeted treatment protocol delivered by a traditionally trained Chinese acupuncturist. The trial examined the treatment of chronic stress as perceived and reported by the participants, with all its diversity of presenting symptoms, rather than using a cohort approach based on a single stress-related symptom. Methods: Participants (n = 18) with high self-reported stress levels were randomised into 3 groups. Group 1 received weekly TCA for 5 weeks; group 2 received weekly attention only (practitioner present and participant supine) for 5 weeks and group 3 acted as a waiting list control. The Perceived Stress Scale 14 (PSS-14) and the Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP) were completed before and after a 5-week intervention. Results: After 5 weeks, group 1 reported significant changes in MYMOP profile score and both MYMOP reported symptoms (p < 0.05); group 2 had significant changes in MYMOP profile score and 1 symptom (p < 0.05); group 3 showed no changes. The PSS-14 scores decreased in all 3 groups, but the difference between pre- and post-study within and between the groups did not reach significance in this small study. In addition, there were self-reports of improvements for group 1 for other health problems encountered during treatment. Limitations and conclusions: The lack of clarity concerning the definition of stress makes it complex to investigate. This pilot study suggests that TCA may be successful in treating the symptoms of stress, through a combination of specific and non-specific effects; but may not relate directly to how a person perceives their stress.

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