Review article| Volume 60, 103715, April 2022

Acupuncture for multiple sclerosis: A literature review

Published:February 26, 2022DOI:


      • Acupuncture as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modality appears to be a helpful integrative therapy for MS.
      • Traditional Chinese acupuncture and scalp acupuncture appear to help improve the symptoms of MS.
      • Fatigue, neural functional deficits, pain, gait impairments, and bladder dysfunction can be improved by acupuncture.



      Acupuncture as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modality appears to be a helpful integrative therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS). Due to the chronicity of the disease and persistent symptoms, a large number of patients seek to use CAM for the MS treatment. Therefore, the present review aimed to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.


      PUBMED database was searched for English articles (at least English abstracts) in September 2021, including all articles published since the earliest literature until September 2021. Review articles were searched for relevant data. The searched keywords in titles and abstracts included ((acupuncture) OR (electroacupuncture)) AND (multiple sclerosis).


      Totally, out of 75 studied articles, 31 were included in this research. The advantages of acupuncture are mainly reflected in regulating neuro-immune system, improving the quality of life, reducing fatigue, improving the bladder function, reducing the spasm and pain of the limbs, delaying the progression of the disease, and reducing relapses.


      According to the review of the recent articles, traditional Chinese acupuncture and scalp acupuncture appear to help improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (including fatigue, neural functional deficits, pain, gait impairments, and bladder dysfunction) and reduce relapses. Therefore, acupuncture could be used as an integrative therapy in patients with MS.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Becker H.
        • Stuifbergen A.K.
        • Schnyer R.N.
        • Morrison J.D.
        • Henneghan A.
        Integrating acupuncture within a wellness intervention for women with multiple sclerosis.
        J. Holist. Nurs. 2017; 35: 86-96
        • Chen J.
        • Zhang L.
        • Gan X.
        • Zhang R.
        • He Y.
        • Lv Q.
        • Fu H.
        • Liu X.
        • Miao L.
        Effects of retinal transcription regulation after GB20 needling treatment in retina with optic neuritis.
        Front. Integr. Neurosci. 2020; 14568449
        • Criado M.B.
        • Santos M.J.
        • Machado J.
        • Goncalves A.M.
        • Greten H.J.
        Effects of acupuncture on gait of patients with multiple sclerosis.
        J Altern. Complement. Med. 2017; 23: 852-857
        • Ding Y.
        • Shi X.
        Controlled research on multiple sclerosis treated with electroacupuncture and acupoint injection.
        Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2013; 33: 793-795
        • Donnellan C.P.
        • Shanley J.
        Comparison of the effect of two types of acupuncture on quality of life in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: a preliminary single-blind randomized controlled trial.
        Clin. Rehabil. 2008; 22: 195-205
        • Esmonde L.
        • Long A.F.
        Complementary therapy use by persons with multiple sclerosis: benefits and research priorities.
        Complement. Ther. Clin. Pract. 2008; 14: 176-184
        • Foroughipour M.
        • Bahrami Taghanaki H.R.
        • Saeidi M.
        • Khazaei M.
        • Sasannezhad P.
        • Shoeibi A.
        Amantadine and the place of acupuncture in the treatment of fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis: an observational study.
        Acupunct. Med. 2013; 31: 27-30
        • Huang S.F.
        • Ding Y.
        • Ruan J.W.
        • Zhang W.
        • Wu J.L.
        • He B.
        • Zhang Y.J.
        • Li Y.
        • Zeng Y.S.
        An experimental electro-acupuncture study in treatment of the rat demyelinated spinal cord injury induced by ethidium bromide.
        Neurosci. Res. 2011; 70: 294-304
        • Huybregts E.
        • Betz W.
        • Devroey D.
        The use of traditional and complementary medicine among patients with multiple sclerosis in Belgium.
        J. Med. Life. 2018; 11: 128-136
      1. Karpatkin, H.I., Napolione, D., Siminovich-Blok, B., 2014. Acupuncture and multiple sclerosis: a review of the evidence. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM 2014, 972935.

        • Kes V.B.
        • Cesarik M.
        • Matovina L.Z.
        • Zavoreo I.
        • Corić L.
        • Drnasin S.
        • Demarin V.
        The role of complementary and alternative medicine in therapy of multiple sclerosis.
        Acta Clin. Croat. 2013; 52: 464-471
        • Kim K.Y.
        • Yang W.J.
        • Shin T.K.
        • Jeong H.J.
        • Kim H.M.
        Impact of acupuncture by using life-energy (qi) oriental needle on the paralysis of rats with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
        Am. J. Chin. Med. 2012; 40: 769-778
        • Kim S.
        • Chang L.
        • Weinstock-Guttman B.
        • Gandhi S.
        • Jakimovski D.
        • Carl E.
        • Zivadinov R.
        • Ramanathan M.
        Complementary and Alternative Medicine Usage by Multiple Sclerosis Patients: results from a Prospective Clinical Study.
        J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2018; 24: 596-602
        • Kopsky D.J.
        • Hesselink J.M.
        Multimodal stepped care approach with acupuncture and PPAR-α agonist palmitoylethanolamide in the treatment of a patient with multiple sclerosis and central neuropathic pain.
        Acupunct. Med. 2012; 30: 53-55
        • Liu Y.
        • Wang H.
        • Wang X.
        • Mu L.
        • Kong Q.
        • Wang D.
        • Wang J.
        • Zhang Y.
        • Yang J.
        • Zhou M.
        • Wang G.
        • Sun B.
        • Li H.
        The mechanism of effective electroacupuncture on T cell response in rats with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
        PLoS One. 2013; 8: e51573
        • Liu Y.M.
        • Liu X.J.
        • Bai S.S.
        • Mu L.L.
        • Kong Q.F.
        • Sun B.
        • Wang D.D.
        • Wang J.H.
        • Shu S.
        • Wang G.Y.
        • Li H.L.
        The effect of electroacupuncture on T cell responses in rats with experimental autoimmune encephalitis.
        J. Neuroimmunol. 2010; 220: 25-33
        • Liu Z.
        • He B.
        • Zhang R.Y.
        • Zhang K.
        • Ding Y.
        • Ruan J.W.
        • Ling E.A.
        • Wu J.L.
        • Zeng Y.S.
        Electroacupuncture promotes the differentiation of transplanted bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells preinduced with Neurotrophin-3 and retinoic acid into oligodendrocyte-like cells in demyelinated spinal cord of rats.
        Cell Transplant. 2015; 24: 1265-1281
        • Lynning M.
        • Hanehøj K.
        • Westergaard K.
        • Kjær Ersbøll A.
        • Claesson M.H.
        • Boesen F.
        • Skovgaard L.
        Effect of acupuncture on cytokine levels in persons with multiple sclerosis: a randomized controlled trial.
        J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2021;
        • Nayak S.
        • Matheis R.J.
        • Schoenberger N.E.
        • Shiflett S.C.
        Use of unconventional therapies by individuals with multiple sclerosis.
        Clin. Rehabil. 2003; 17: 181-191
        • Quispe-Cabanillas J.G.
        • Damasceno A.
        • von Glehn F.
        • Brandao C.O.
        • Damasceno B.P.
        • Silveira W.D.
        • Santos L.M.
        Impact of electroacupuncture on quality of life for patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis under treatment with immunomodulators: a randomized study.
        BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 2012; 12 (209)
        • Skovgaard L.
        • Nicolajsen P.H.
        • Pedersen E.
        • Kant M.
        • Fredrikson S.
        • Verhoef M.
        • Meyrowitsch D.W.
        Use of complementary and alternative medicine among people with multiple sclerosis in the nordic countries.
        Autoimmune Dis. 2012. 2012; 841085
        • Spoerel W.E.
        • Paty D.W.
        • Kertesz A.
        • Leung C.Y.
        Letter: acupuncture and multiple sclerosis.
        Can Med Assoc J. 1974; 110: 751
        • Steinberger A.
        Specific irritability of acupuncture points as an early symptom of multiple sclerosis.
        Am. J. Chin. Med. 1986; 14: 175-178
        • Stoll S.S.
        • Nieves C.
        • Tabby D.S.
        • Schwartzman R.
        Use of therapies other than disease-modifying agents, including complementary and alternative medicine, by patients with multiple sclerosis: a survey study.
        J. Am. Osteopath. Assoc. 2012; 112: 22-28
        • Tjon Eng Soe S.H.
        • Kopsky D.J.
        • Jongen P.J.
        • de Vet H.C.
        • Oei-Tan C.L.
        Multiple sclerosis patients with bladder dysfunction have decreased symptoms after electro-acupuncture.
        Mult. Scler. 2009; 15: 1376-1377
      2. Walton, C., King, R., Rechtman, L., Kaye, W., Leray, E., Marrie, R.A., Robertson, N., La Rocca, N., Uitdehaag, B., van der Mei, I., Wallin, M., Helme, A., Angood Napier, C., Rijke, N., Baneke, P., 2020. Rising prevalence of multiple sclerosis worldwide: insights from the Atlas of MS, third edition. Multiple sclerosis (Houndmills, Basingstoke, England) 26(14), 1816–1821.

        • Wang C.
        • Chen Z.
        • Wang L.
        • Ma X.
        • Xing Y.
        • Li A.
        • Zhang F.
        • Zhang T.
        [Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis at remission stage treated with acupuncture:a randomized controlled trial].
        Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2017; 37: 576-580
      3. Wiendl, H., Gold, R., Berger, T., Derfuss, T., Linker, R., Mäurer, M., Aktas, O., Baum, K., Berghoff, M., Bittner, S., Chan, A., Czaplinski, A., Deisenhammer, F., Di Pauli, F., Du Pasquier, R., Enzinger, C., Fertl, E., Gass, A., Gehring, K., Gobbi, C., Goebels, N., Guger, M., Haghikia, A., Hartung, H.P., Heidenreich, F., Hoffmann, O., Kallmann, B., Kleinschnitz, C., Klotz, L., Leussink, V.I., Leutmezer, F., Limmroth, V., Lünemann, J.D., Lutterotti, A., Meuth, S.G., Meyding-Lamadé, U., Platten, M., Rieckmann, P., Schmidt, S., Tumani, H., Weber, F., Weber, M.S., Zettl, U.K., Ziemssen, T., Zipp, F., 2021. Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Consensus Group (MSTCG): position statement on disease-modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis (white paper).Ther. Adv. Neurol. Disord. 14, 17562864211039648.

        • Zhao P.
        • Chen X.
        • Han X.
        • Wang Y.
        • Shi Y.
        • Ji J.
        • Lei Y.
        • Liu Y.
        • Kong Q.
        • Mu L.
        • Wang J.
        • Zhao W.
        • Wang G.
        • Liu X.
        • Zhang T.
        • Zhang Y.
        • Sun B.
        • Liu Y.
        • Li H.
        Involvement of microRNA-155 in the mechanism of electroacupuncture treatment effects on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
        Int. Immunopharmacol. 2021; 97107811
      4. Zhu, J., Li, J., Yang, L., Liu, S., 2021. Acupuncture, from the ancient to the current. Anatom. Rec. (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007).

        • Zhu K.
        • Sun J.
        • Kang Z.
        • Zou Z.
        • Wu G.
        • Wang J.
        Electroacupuncture Promotes Remyelination after Cuprizone Treatment by Enhancing Myelin Debris Clearance.
        Front. Neurosci. 2016; 10 (613)
      5. Zou, Z., Sun, J., Kang, Z., Wang, Y., Zhao, H., Zhu, K., Wang, J., 2020. Tyrosine kinase receptors Axl and MerTK mediate the beneficial effect of electroacupuncture in a cuprizone-induced demyelinating model. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM 2020, 3205176.