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A Free Online Clinical Studies Database for Electroacupuncture

A preview by Marilyn Thompson

Reproduced by permission of Marilyn Thompson and the editors of the Journal of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) (


Whilst a major thrust of research on acupuncture must be to carry out new and better designed clinical trials, it is just as important that the information within the many existing clinical studies is easily accessible. Much key research has been carried out in China, the former USSR, and other non-English speaking countries, and if available in English this has only been via scanty and sometimes inaccurate abstracts. Until now, there has been no single location where data from this research, or even from studies originally published in English, could be consulted.

David Mayor, who is both a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and an honorary member of the AACP, has had a lifelong fascination with electricity. His subsequent specialism in electroacupuncture led him to develop an extensive database of electroacupuncture clinical studies, which will shortly be available online at the Elsevier website David, editor of the textbook Electroacupuncture: A Practical Manual and Resource (Elsevier 2006) presented an overview of this extensive database at the Combined BMAS and AACP conference held at the University of Warwick on 25th and 26th March 2006.

The database

The database contains over 8,000 studies, and has been an ongoing project since 1999. As evidence based practice is becoming the expected norm for clinical practice this extensive reference tool will become an encyclopaedia for present and future acupuncturists, who want to keep abreast of worldwide research study findings and broaden their acupuncture repertoire.

This free online searchable database contains information extracted from studies carried out up to the end of 2003 worldwide, originally published in Chinese, Russian, Ukranian, English and other Western and Eastern European languages. Just under half of these studies (3,500) are on electroacupuncture (EA), the remainder being on other interventions such as TENS.

Sources of information for the database

David Mayor completed a comprehensive search of his own extensive collection as well as of databases such as MEDLINE, EMBASE, The Science Citation Index, AMED and the MARF online database, with additional hand searching of periodicals in specialist libraries such as the Needham Research Institute, Wellcome Institute and British Library.

Contents of the database

This focuses on conditions treated with EA and other non-traditional forms of acupuncture, and on the acupoints and treatment parameters used. Other data types include – study type, numbers and subgroups of subjects, endpoint measures used and outcome (see Table 1 for an example). Statistical detail is not usually included. When appropriate, TCM syndrome differentiations are mentioned.

Study 1:
Lin H 1996
Postpartum mental depression
Study Type:
N in study:
90 / (a) EA (53); (b) MA (37)
Type of acupuncture:
Points used:
SI-3 (bilateral), BL-15, HE-7 (bilateral), GB-13, Du-11
Parameters used:
0-90 Hz, DD. Pulse intensity to patient’s tolerance (model G6805)
Stimulus duration:
25 mins
Number of sessions:
5 per course
Follow up:
No details
Endpoint measures:
According to national standard
In gps (a) and (b), respectively – markedly improved: 22 (41.5%) vs 9 (24.3%); moderately improved: 16 (30.2%) vs 7 (18.9%); slightly improved: 9 (17.0%) vs 8 (21.6%); no effect: 6 vs 13; total effective rate: 88.7% vs 64.8%

Table 1: Sample Study


Lin H [Observation on the effect of 53 postpartum mental depression treated by electroacupuncture]. Tianjin Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Tianjin Zhongyi). 1996 June; 13(3): 11-2

Use of this database will:

• Speed up literature reviews
• Enable more effective treatment planning
• Increase awareness of the diversity of treatments and methods in the world of acupuncture
• Enable researchers to rapidly sift through studies which merit further investigation
• Act as a springboard to further research
• Avoid duplication of existing or proposed research.

Work on the database was partially funded by grants from the AACP and BAcC, and support from acupuncture suppliers such as Body Clock Health Care, Harmony Medical, Nidd Valley Medical, Noma (Complex Homeopathy) and Scarboroughs.

In addition to the clinical studies database, the new website includes two tables:

Table 1. Acupoints and their segmental correspondences:

• Acupoints
• Dermatomes
• Myotomes
• Sclerotomes
• Viscerotomes

This table will be of particular interest to those who use electrical acupoint stimulation, whether TENS (dermatomes) or EA (myotomes), and will facilitate selection of electrical parameters at different points.

Table 2. Motor and related points, and their acupoint correlations. This table will be of interest to physiotherapists and others who specialise in muscle stimulation.

The tables presented were prepared on the basis of information in standard textbooks and other published studies, with a good deal of input and assistance from Mike Cummings of the BMAS. This material is part of a longer Appendix on “Acupuncture innervation and terminology” in the Elsevier Electroacupuncture textbook, which also contains information on Head’s Maxima and other ‘organ points’ according to Mackenzie, Jarricot and others, and a further table illustrating the many anomalies and differences in autonomic innervation found in the literature.

This large scale research project should be of interest to many acupuncturists both within and beyond the AACP and BMAS. It has involved collaboration across the profession, both within the UK and abroad, and material has been gathered without bias in respect of acupuncture philosophy and practice.

The project brings a novel approach to negotiating the literature which can provide pointers for future research, whether in looking at all clinical studies of traditional acupuncture, or focusing on the experimental/physiological research.

Both the database and the tables on segmental acupuncture correspondences will be found on the Elsevier website after August 2006:

The future

Much potentially useful information in this field is not available in the UK. There are large gaps in the database because of difficulties in obtaining or hand searching studies in the Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese literature. Financial restraints have prevented full completion of this project, despite limiting studies up to the end of 2003. Even so, it provides a template for future work along similar lines, and could easily be updated by a properly funded and equipped team.

David’s hope is that various acupuncture organisations will work together to make this a reality. He also hopes that the present database will increase awareness of diversity and creativity in the world of acupuncture, and of the many new technologies that have been developed for acupuncture practice, as well as encouraging further innovation in treatment.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the further development of this database can contact David Mayor after August on:


Marilyn Thompson is a Chartered Physiotherapist, qualifying in 1971, and has additional qualifications as a Licentiate in Acupuncture ((Hons), British College of Acupuncture1988); Master of Science (Liverpool University 1995) and Diploma in Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy (2001). Marilyn is the North Wales Representative of the Acupuncture Association of Physiotherapists, and is sub editor and reviewer for the AACP Journal. Marilyn works both in the NHS, and her Complementary Health Centre, which specialises in acupuncture, Pilates, sports injuries and women’s health, and holds regular workshops for both therapists and general public.

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