Osteoporosis (OP) results in an increased risk of fragility fractures, representing a major public health problem. In preventing OP, complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, was recommended because of the low efficiency and side effects of medications. Recently, there is insufficient evidence on electroacupuncture as an effective therapy for OP management. Hence, we evaluated the effectiveness of electroacupuncture for OP treatment.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical studies on patients with OP. Five databases (PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and Wanfang) were searched from the earliest publication date to March 12, 2020. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included if electroacupuncture was applied as the sole treatment or as an adjunct to other treatments compared with medications in patients with OP. The measurement outcomes included serum aminoterminal propeptide of type I procollagen (PINP) and C-telopeptide of type I collagen (CTX) levels, bone mineral density (BMD) of lumbar, and visual analog scale scores for OP-related pain. Acupoints were extracted when available.
In total, 11 RCTs involving 731 participants were included for further meta-analysis. The meta-analysis showed that the use of electroacupuncture as a sole treatment or as an adjunct to other treatments could relieve OP-related pain compared with medications [mean difference (MD) =  -0.58, 95% confidence interval (CI); MD =  -0.97 to -0.19, P = .003, I2 = 88%; MD =  -1.47, 95% CI = -2.14 to -0.79, P < .001, I2 = 96%). Meanwhile, the results showed a favorable effect of electroacupuncture on decreasing serum beta-CTX levels. However, there were no significant differences in serum PINP levels and BMD of lumbar. Shenshu (BL23) was the most frequent acupoint stimulation among these studies.
The application of electroacupuncture as an independent therapy or as an adjunct to other treatments might attenuate OP-related pain and serum beta-CTX levels. However, to overcome the methodological shortcomings of the existing evidence, due to a small size of samples and high risk of bias in these included RCTs, further rigorous studies are required.