Warm-needle moxibustion for spasticity after stroke: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Liu Yang, Jing Yu Tan, Haili Ma, Hongjia Zhao, Jinghui Lai, Jin Xiu Chen, Lorna K.P. Suen

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Spasticity is a common post-stroke complication, and it results in substantial deterioration in the quality of life of patients. Although potential positive effects of warm-needle moxibustion on spasticity after stroke have been observed, evidence on its definitive effect remains uncertain. Objectives: This study aimed to summarize clinical evidence pertaining to therapeutic effects and safety of warm-needle moxibustion for treating spasticity after stroke. Design: Randomized controlled trials were reviewed systematically on the basis of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. The report follows the PRISMA statement. Methods: Ten electronic databases (PubMed, CENTRAL, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL, Web of Science, CBM, CNKI, WanFang, and VIP) were explored, and articles were retrieved manually from two Chinese journals (The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Zhong Guo Zhen Jiu) through retrospective search. Randomized controlled trials with warm-needle moxibustion as treatment intervention for patients with limb spasm after stroke were included in this review. The risk of bias assessment tool was utilized in accordance with Cochrane Handbook 5.1.0. All included studies reported spasm effect as primary outcome. Effect size was estimated using relative risk, standardized mean difference, or mean difference with a corresponding 95% confidence interval. Review Manager 5.3 was utilized for meta-analysis. Results: Twelve randomized controlled trials with certain methodological flaws and risk of bias were included, and they involved a total of 878 participants. Warm-needle moxibustion was found to be superior to electroacupuncture or acupuncture in reducing spasm and in promoting motor function and daily living activities. Pooled results for spasm effect and motor function were significant when warm-needle moxibustion was compared with electroacupuncture or acupuncture. A comparison of daily living activities indicated significant differences between warm-needle moxibustion and electroacupuncture. However, no difference was observed between warm-needle moxibustion and acupuncture. Conclusions: Warm-needle moxibustion may be a promising intervention to reduce limb spasm as well as improve motor function and daily living activities for stroke patients with spasticity. However, evidence was not conclusive. Rigorously designed randomized controlled trials with sample sizes larger than that in the included trials should be conducted for verification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-138
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Meta-analysis
  • Spasticity
  • Stroke
  • Systematic review
  • Warm-needle moxibustion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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