The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Acupuncture for osteoarthritis: A qualitative analysis to interpret the results of a randomised controlled trial. Conference paper presented at ECIM 2009.

Bishop, F., Hill, C., White, P., Walker, J. and Lewith, G. (2009) Acupuncture for osteoarthritis: A qualitative analysis to interpret the results of a randomised controlled trial. Conference paper presented at ECIM 2009. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 1, (4), pp. 214-215. (doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2009.08.135).

Record type: Article


Objective: To develop explanations for the quantitative findings of an RCT by systematically interrogating data from the nested qualitative study.

Design: Qualitative study (narrative interviews and framework analysis) nested within an RCT.

Participants: A total of 27 RCT participants were purposively selected to interview, to encompass all treatment conditions.

Setting: The single-blind RCT examined the efficacy of real acupuncture for pain relief in hip and knee osteoarthritis. Patients were randomised to 3 treatment conditions (real acupuncture vs 2 placebo treatments) and 2 consultation conditions (empathic vs non-empathic). The study involved 3 experienced acupuncturists who delivered all interventions.

Findings: Interviewees were active participants who sought to make meaning of their experiences in the trial. They wanted to try acupuncture and thought it might benefit them, thus subverting patient equipoise. Interviewees sought to determine whether they were receiving real treatment and drew on cues including perceived outcomes, treatment sensations, and practitioner behaviours. Evidence for a reciprocal process is outlined in which interviewees’ perceptions of treatment veracity and outcomes were mutually reinforcing. The most successful practitioner was seen as an authoritative doctor. Interviewees reported colluding with practitioners in non-empathic consultations, and inferred empathy from experiences associated with the trial but outside the protocol treatments.

Conclusions: This nested qualitative analysis offered novel insights into the RCT findings that would not have been possible from the quantitative data alone. Conceptualising and understanding RCT subjects as active participants has important implications for trial design particularly for interventions such as acupuncture when equipoise is unlikely.

Full text not available from this repository.

More information

Published date: December 2009
Additional Information: Presented at the 2nd European Congress on Integrative Medicine, Berlin


Local EPrints ID: 176239
ISSN: 1876-3820
PURE UUID: cfa0b3ed-fbf1-4165-a748-ca54cc1d920d
ORCID for F. Bishop: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Mar 2011 11:42
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 12:08

Export record



Author: F. Bishop ORCID iD
Author: C. Hill
Author: P. White
Author: J. Walker
Author: G. Lewith

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.