Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

Evidence Map: Acupuncture as Treatment for Adult Health Conditions (Update from 2013-2021)

Click for list of published reports
Click for topic nomination form
Click for list of reports in progress

Subscribe to the
ESP Report RSS feed RSS feed icon
Evidence Map of Acupuncture as Treatment for Adult Health Conditions 
(Update from 2013–2021)

Recommended citation:
Shekelle P, Allen J, Mak S, Begashaw M, Miake-Lye I, Severin J, Larkin J. Evidence Map of Acupuncture as Treatment for Adult Health Conditions: Update from 2013–2021. Washington, DC: Evidence Synthesis Program, Health Services Research and Development Service, Office of Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs. VA ESP Project #05-226; 2022.

Download PDF: Complete Report, Report, Appendices


There have been more than 300 systematic reviews published since 2013 of acupuncture as treatment for adult health conditions, but only 104 of these reviews formally graded the certainty of evidence for their conclusions. Of those that did, most conclusions judged as being of moderate or high certainty evidence were about painful conditions and assessed the comparison of acupuncture to sham or control acupuncture.


Due to increasing popularity of acupuncture and a growing body of research, we produced an updated Evidence Map of Acupuncture, spanning the period from March 2013 to April 2021. In order to be included, a publication needed to be: about efficacy or effectiveness of acupuncture for an adult health condition; a systematic review; and to have used formal methods to assess the certainty of the evidence (CoE) for conclusions.

Key Findings

We identified 1,207 potentially relevant citations and included 64 publications in this report, categorized into more than 40 conditions. Our evidence mapping process resulted in 6 visual depictions of the evidence for acupuncture, with each condition plotted on the map based on the effect of acupuncture and certainty of evidence statements as reported in the systematic review. General observations from these maps include: 1) there are more mapped conclusions for painful conditions than for all other conditions combined; 2) there are only a small number of reviews with at least one conclusion rated as High CoE; 3) the conclusions about the effectiveness of acupuncture that were judged to have at least Moderate CoE mostly concerned comparisons of acupuncture to sham or control acupuncture for painful conditions or pain outcomes; and 4) there is no evidence that acupuncture is less safe than usual care for these conditions.

See also

Evidence Map of Acupuncture as Treatment for Adult Health Conditions: Update from 2013 - 2021 - Management Brief

Allen J, Mak S, Begashaw M, et al. Use of Acupuncture for Adult Health Conditions, 2013 to 2021: A Systematic Review. JAMA Network Open. 2022;5(11):e2243665. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.43665.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.