Purpose Aromatase inhibitor (AI)-induced arthralgia (AIA) is a common side effect that may lead to premature discontinuation of effective hormonal therapy in patients with breast cancer. Acupuncture may relieve joint pain in patients with AIA. We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture in pain relief in AIA. Methods The PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, and Scopus databases and the ClinicalTrials.gov registry were searched for studies published before February 2017. Individual effect sizes were standardized, and a meta-analysis was conducted to calculate the pooled effect size by using a random effect model. Pain was assessed using the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) at 3–4, 6–8, and 12 weeks. Secondary outcomes included disability level, upper extremity function, physical performance, and quality of life. Results Five trials involving 181 patients were reviewed. Significant pain reduction was observed after 6–8 weeks of acupuncture treatment. Patients receiving acupuncture showed a significant decrease in the BPI worst pain score (weighted mean difference [WMD]: −3.81, 95% confidence interval [CI]: −5.15 to −2.47) and the WOMAC pain score (WMD: −130.77, 95% CI: −230.31 to −31.22) after 6–8 weeks of treatment. One of the 4 trials reported 18 minor adverse events in 8 patients during 398 intervention episodes. Conclusion Acupuncture is a safe and viable nonpharmacologic treatment that may relieve joint pain in patients with AIA. Additional studies involving a higher number of RCTs are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-138
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgia
  • Breast cancer
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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