Document Type

Journal Article


School of Chinese Medicine




Background: Acupuncture and moxibustion have widely been used to treat lateral elbow pain (LEP). A comprehensive systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) including both English and Chinese databases was conducted to assess the efficacy of acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of LEP.Methods: Revised STRICTA (2010) criteria were used to appraise the acupuncture procedures, the Cochrane risk of bias tool was used to assess the methodological quality of the studies. A total of 19 RCTs that compared acupuncture and/or moxibustion with sham acupuncture, another form of acupuncture, or conventional treatment were included.Results: All studies had at least one domain rated as high risk or uncertain risk of bias in the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Results from three RCTs of moderate quality showed that acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture. Results from 10 RCTs of mostly low quality showed that acupuncture or moxibustion was superior or equal to conventional treatment, such as local anesthetic injection, local steroid injection, non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs, or ultrasound. There were six low quality RCTs that compared acupuncture and moxibustion combined with manual acupuncture alone, and all showed that acupuncture and moxibustion combined was superior to manual acupuncture alone.Conclusion: Moderate quality studies suggest that acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture. Interpretations of findings regarding acupuncture vs. conventional treatment, and acupuncture and moxibustion combined vs. manual acupuncture alone are limited by the methodological qualities of these studies. Future studies with improved methodological design are warranted to confirm the efficacy of acupuncture and moxibustion for LEP.


Chinese literature, Cochrane risk of bias tool, Epicondylitis, PRISMA, Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), STRICTA, Tennis elbow

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine





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BioMed Central

Peer Reviewed



© 2014 Gadau et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


The present study is partially supported by grant to SPZ from HKBU (FRG 1/ 11-12/047).



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