An American study of acupuncture for chronic pain has explored the patient experience in group and individual treatment settings for the first time. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a subset of 46 patients from two arms of a randomised comparative effectiveness trial of acupuncture for chronic pain conducted in a low income population. Patients were randomised to receive either individual acupuncture or acupuncture delivered in a small group. Analysis of interview transcripts showed that patients in both study arms valued the pain relief, improved quality of life and relaxation experienced through acupuncture. Participants described both positive and negative aspects of the group setting. Although privacy and mixed-sex groups were cited as a concern by a minority of patients, most of those randomised to the group setting noted that these concerns abated after initiating treatment. Patients in individual sessions described richer therapeutic relationships with the acupuncturists compared with those treated in groups. However, some indicated that the group itself contributed to their experience by helping them relax and by forming social bonds with other participants.

“It’s Better in a Group Anyway”: Patient Experiences of Group and Individual Acupuncture. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Apr;24(4):336-342.