Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a commonly seen pain condition with limited treatments available, and acupuncture is widely used for pain conditions, including TN.
To review the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for TN.
English and Chinese databases were searched extensively to identify randomized controlled studies of acupuncture treatment for TN. Selected studies were assessed for methodological quality. Odds ratios (OR) between treatment and control groups were used to assess efficacy.
Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria with 506 people in the acupuncture arm and 414 people in the control arm, in which carbamazepine (CBZ) was used as the control treatment. They were all low-quality studies, hence precluding meta-analysis. Only four trials reported that acupuncture was superior to CBZ, and the remaining eight studies showed no difference between the treatment and control groups. Adverse effects of acupuncture, which were reported in three studies, were mild.
The evidence reviewed previously suggests that acupuncture is of similar efficacy as CBZ but with fewer adverse effects in treatment of TN. However, the evidence is weak because of low methodological quality of the reviewed studies. Further studies with improved methodologies are recommended to support the use of acupuncture for TN.