Bridging the gap in complementary and alternative medicine research: Manualization as a means of promoting standardization and flexibility of treatment in clinical trials of acupuncture

Rosa N. Schnyer, John JB Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Scopus citations


Introduction: An important methodological challenge encountered in acupuncture clinical research involves the design of treatment protocols that help ensure standardization and replicability while allowing for the necessary flexibility to tailor treatments to each individual. Manualization of protocols used in clinical trials of acupuncture and other traditionally-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) systems facilitates the systematic delivery of replicable and standardized, yet individually-tailored treatments. Objectives: To facilitate high-quality CAM acupuncture research by outlining a method for the systematic design and implementation of protocols used in CAM clinical trials based on the concept of treatment manualization. Methods: A series of treatment manuals was developed to systematically articulate the Chinese medical theoretical and clinical framework for a given Western-defined illness, to increase the quality and consistency of treatment, and to standardize the technical aspects of the protocol. In all, three manuals were developed for National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded clinical trials of acupuncture for depression, spasticity in cerebral palsy, and repetitive stress injury. In Part I, the rationale underlying these manuals and the challenges encountered in creating them are discussed, and qualitative assessments of their utility are provided. In Part II, a methodology to develop treatment manuals for use in clinical trials is detailed, and examples are given. Conclusions: A treatment manual provides a precise way to train and supervise practitioners, enable evaluation of conformity and competence, facilitate the training process, and increase the ability to identify the active therapeutic ingredients in clinical trials of acupuncture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-634
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Nursing(all)

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