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News Wire
February 2020

Message from the Presidents

In this issue of the SAR News Wire, take advantage of the SAR member rates and learn about the workshops offered at the upcoming SAR/Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center spring symposium on oncology acupuncture; discover the results of a study on self-administered acupressure for chronic low back pain; read a recent JACM column on recommendations for Medicare/Medcaid and responses to the new CMS decision on acupuncture for chronic low back pain; and get to know our ambassador from Spain, Beltrán Carrillo.


Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, and Rick Harris, PhD

Co-Presidents, SAR

Workshops at Upcoming Oncology Acupuncture Symposium Offer Important Opportunities for Collaboration

On April 24-25, 2020, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), in partnership with SAR, will present Oncology Acupuncture: From Neuroscience to Patient Wellbeing in New York City. On the first day of the symposium, we will focus on connecting neuroscience and basic research with clinical evidence for oncology acupuncture symptom management. On the second day, we will conduct four exciting breakout workshops with experts in the field of acupuncture and oncology, including members of the SAR Board:

  • Designing and Conducting High Quality Acupuncture Clinical Trials in Oncology
  • Building Oncology Acupuncture Programs: Present and Future
  • Training Oncology Acupuncturists
  • Implementing an Acupressure Intervention for Oncology Patients by Nurses

These workshops are wonderful opportunities for active collaboration and engagement to discuss how to move oncology acupuncture forward. We look forward to seeing you there and encourage attendance by all health care providers who diagnose, manage, and treat side effects of cancer treatment, as well as those who develop and oversee cancer care programs.

Learn more and register at

MSK CME is offering SAR members a discount to attend this symposium. Contact for more information and a promotion code.

Early registration savings available through March 6.

Column available in Open Access through February 18, 2020

SAR “Turning Points” in JACM: Recommendations to Medicare/Medicaid

For the past two years, SAR Board members have written a series of commentaries as part of our relationship with JACM-Paradigm, Practice and Policy Advancing Integrative Health (The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine). Now that we have a regular newsletter, we will be sharing the first set with you, and new commentaries as they come out. Each will be made available in open access for two weeks following the announcement in our newsletter. This month we feature the April 2019 commentary, Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain: Recommendations to Medicare/Medicaid from the Society for Acupuncture Research, led by Jun Mao, MD, current co-president of SAR.

Notably, in January 2020, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an order announcing that they will begin covering acupuncture, though with many limits. A step in the right direction! The announcement is here: Several organizations, including SAR and the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA)/National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) have issued responses:

To the Point: SAR Research Update

CLINICAL HIGHLIGHT: Self-Administered Acupressure for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial

What is this study about?

In this pilot study, researchers randomized 67 patients with chronic non-specific low back pain into two forms of self-administered acupressure treatment - stimulating (n=22) or relaxing (n=22) - or usual care (n=23). The treatments were self-administered daily for 6 weeks. Outcomes including pain, disability, sleep and fatigue, were measured at baseline and 6 weeks from baseline.

What is the main finding?

Both acupressure interventions resulted in significant reduction of pain; usual care did not. Stimulating acupressure also resulted in significant reduction in fatigue. There were no significant differences between groups in sleep or disability.

What is the significance for practicing acupuncture?

First, this study provides patients with some form of influence on their back pain. The treatment protocols are easy to implement and could be given to patients in between acupuncture treatment sessions to augment the benefit. Second, it is interesting to observe that the impact of the treatments is different on pain vs. disability. Improvements in pain and fatigue do not necessarily lead to improvements in disability and sleep. As such, acupressure may be an ideal adjunct to existing treatment, but may not be sufficient alone. Finally, the outcomes were measured immediately after the intervention thus the long-term impact is unknown. Ideally, an active control and some sort of blinding would be helpful in the next full study.

Reference: Murphy SL, Harris RE, Keshavarzi NR, Zick SM. Self-Administered Acupressure for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Pain Med. 2019 Dec 1;20(12):2588-2597.


Feature Commentary:

SAR Global Ambassador: Beltán Carrillo, MD - SPAIN

This month, we were honored to speak with Beltrán Carrillo, a medical doctor (Univeridad Complutense, Madrid) and specialist in geriatric medicine. Dr. Carrillo is also an acupuncturist and president of the Spanish Medical Acupuncture Society (SAME). He lives in Madrid, Spain.

What is the state of acupuncture in Spain today?

The situation of acupuncture in Spain has changed dramatically in the last year. Until 2018, the only regulation for the practice of acupuncture was under the state law of Health Centers, where it was established that a medical doctor had to be responsible for the treatment at Health Centers where acupuncture was practiced. Education and training for doctors and other health workers were provided by regulated university masters. There are also numerous private unregulated centers where anyone can take acupuncture courses.

On November 2018, influenced by recognized pseudo-skeptic groups, the government of Spain initiated a plan to fight against “pseudotherapies,” explicitly including acupuncture together with up to 138 other natural therapies. Their intention was to publish a future law banning the use of any pseudotherapy in public and private health centers. They initiated a process of studying the degree of scientific evidence (basically systematic reviews and meta-analysis) published in each area. They conducted an exploratory study of publications between 2012 and 2018 and distinguished acupuncture as one of 66 therapies that had high level published studies. The state agency is now considering the study results; they will only evaluate acupuncture for "chronic skeletal muscle pain" due to the large number of publications and conditions that exist in the acupuncture field. The results of this global review, expected in the first half of this year, are expected to be favorable, and to clearly define acupuncture as a conventional therapy.

Tell us about your work in acupuncture research.

Due to the defense of acupuncture that we have had to carry out in this last year, I have devoted a great deal of my research time to secondary analysis of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. It is an exciting world with a large number of publications that is growing exponentially. One of the deficiencies that I find in acupuncture studies is the quality issue. Although this is not very different from publications in conventional medicine, it is used as an argument to discredit acupuncture. When designing studies, I recommend that authors conduct an in depth analysis on aspects related to quality, not only using recognized checklists (STRICT, PRISMA-A), but also analyzing the quality measurement tools that will be used by the overviewers, and ensuring that they are met. This way, the study is not penalized for aspects that are easy to fulfill for most studies and authors in subsequent quality evaluation.

Upcoming Events

Registration Open: Oncology Acupuncture Symposium: From Neuroscience to Patient Wellbeing
- April 24-25, 2020, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA
- MSK CME is offering SAR members a discount to attend this symposium. Contact for more information and a promotion code. 
- Learn more and register here:

Save the Date: KIOM-SAR 2020 International Research Conference,Bridging East & West from Acupuncture & Traditional Medicine Research to Practice
-September 10-12, 2020 in Seoul, Korea
-Co-sponsored by the Korea Institute for Oriental Medicine (KIOM)
-Learn more here:

Save the Date: Society for Acupuncture Research 2021 Conference
-June 16-20, 2021, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Do you have acupuncture news or research to share with our community? Write us at

Society for Acupuncture Research

130 Cloverhurst Court, Winston Salem
NC 27103 United States

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