Research: PATERSON,

Listed in Issue 154


PATERSON, MRC Health Services Research Collaboration, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR investigated patients' perspectives of the process and outcome of Western-style acupuncture for chronic health problems. Their objective was to use these results to inform the provision of acupuncture in health services in the UK.



A purposive sample of 18 patients who were having Western-style acupuncture, for the first time, for a health problem of at least three months duration, were interviewed twice over a four-month period using semi-structured interviews. Using a constant comparative method, the data were analysed across cases and within cases.


The interviewees complained of chronic pain and moderate or severe disability which was resistant to conventional treatment. Their experience of acupuncture was diverse and varied according to the 'dosage' of acupuncture received, the inclusion of self-care strategies, and their relationship with the practitioner. These three factors were interlinked and constituted individual styles of practice for each practitioner. The majority of patients benefited in terms of complete or partial relief of pain and disability, and reduction in conventional medication. However, some patients were disappointed by the treatment, distressed about 'wasting people's time', and about the lack of continuity of care. People who benefited most had good general health and a single problem.


Patients showed discerning judgement regarding the 'dosage' of acupuncture they required, and combined acupuncture with exercises to good effect. Publicly funded health services should provide an acupuncture service that provides the optimal 'dosage' and uses pain relief to promote self-care. Further research to investigate the benefits of a service that combines Western-style and traditional acupuncture is planned.


Paterson C. Patients' experiences of Western-style acupuncture: the influence of acupuncture 'dose', self-care strategies and integration. Journal of Health Services & Research Policy.  12 Suppl 1: S1-39-45 April 2007.

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