Dr Zhen Zheng


Senior Lecturer

School /
Work Unit

Health Sciences

Contact Details

+61 3 9925 7167



Building: 202
Level: 4
Room: 48

Bundoora West Campus


Science, Engineering & Health


Key activities

During the last 15 years at RMIT, Dr Zheng has taught, coordinated and developed courses and programs in Chinese medicine.

She is the coordinator, lecturer and course developer of Research Methods and Neurophysiology of Acupuncture. She also coordinates Botany, Medicinal Chemistry and Research Methods. Teaching students to develop critical thinking skills and make informed clinical decisions are the key areas of her interest.


Doctor of Philosophy, University of Melbourne
Bachelor of Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China

Industry experience

  • Dr Zheng is a reviewer for the following journals:
    • Acupuncture in Medicine
    • Australasian Medical Journal
    • BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    • Chinese Medicine
    • Clinical Journal of Pain
    • Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    • Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM)
    • Journal of Nursing
    • Pain Medicine
    • Neurochemistry International

Through research into integrative approaches to pain management, and work as the Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Dr Zheng has formed strong collaborations with other health professionals, and pain clinics at a few public hospitals in Victoria.

Dr Zheng was a member of the Primary Care Group for the development of National Pain Strategy. She has been invited to deliver lectures to nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, general practitioners, pain specialists, rheumatologists and complementary medicine practitioners.

Research overview

Research affiliations

  • National Ageing Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Victoria
  • Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria
  • Caulfield Hospital, Victoria
  • Australian Acupuncture Research Network, National Institute of Complementary Medicine, New South Wales
  • Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China
  • European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action TD1005

Area of research interest

  • Identify the role of acupuncture in the management of various types of pain: tension type of headache, migraine, low back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia
  • Identify the optimal acupuncture treatment protocols for pain management
  • Hyperalgesia and temporal summation
  • Pain and ageing
  • Chinese medicine differential diagnosis of various types of pain

Methods utilised

  • Clinical trials
  • Systematic reviews
  • Psychophysical studies
  • Qualitative research
  • Questionnaire development and validation

Student supervision

  • Four master’s and four PhD as the senior supervisor

Grants obtained

Grant type


Project grant, National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Chief investigator

Electroacupuncture on opioid consumption by patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a randomised controlled trial ($353,650)

Project grant, NHMRC, Chief investigator

Combined electroacupuncture and cognitive behavioural therapy for tension-type headache: a randomised controlled trial ($292,025)

Helen MacPherson Smith Trust, Chief investigator

Patient attitudes to usage and reduction of opioid medications for chronic pain ($32,583)

RMIT Foundation International Visiting Fellowship, Chief investigator

Patient attitudes to usage and reduction of opioid medications for chronic pain

School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Chief investigator

Patient attitudes to usage and reduction of opioid medications for chronic pain

Project grant, NHMRC, Chief investigator

Randomised controlled trials of acupuncture vs. pharmacotherapy for acute pain relief in emergency departments ($400,023)

Research Grant, Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association LTD (AACMA), Chief investigator

The Effects of Acupuncture on Hyperalgesia in Healthy Humans: Implications for the Use of Invasive-Sham Acupuncture in Clinical Trials for Pain

Research Grant, AACMA, Chief investigator

The effect of acupuncture on temporal summation of pain in healthy humans: a randomised, single-blind, controlled-study

Research Grant, AACMA, Chief investigator

Acupuncture for chronic pain - The effect of electro-acupuncture on reducing opioid consumption in patients with chronic pain.

Research Grant, AACMA, Chief investigator

Acupuncture for chronic pain - Evaluation of effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of migraine: a randomised, single blind and sham controlled trial.

Research grant,

Faculty of Life Sciences RMIT University, Chief investigator

The Effect of Electroacupuncture on Reducing Opioid Consumption in Patients with Chronic Pain

Strategic Initiative Project (SIP) Grant

Faculty of Life Sciences RMIT University, Chief investigator

The Use of Asynchronous E-communication in Journal Club

Research speciality

Dr Zheng ’s research specialty is acupuncture and other types of phycial interventions for pain. Her expertises are psychophysical study design for pain research, clincal trial deign, systematic reviews, and qualitative research.

Her research interests include:

  1. identifying optimal acupuncture treatment protocols and the types of pain that are responsive to acupuncture. Using psychophysical methods, her team found that the best acupuncture analgesia was expressed at the same nerve segment on the treatment limb as well as the opposite non-treatment limb. This paper was rated by the Faculty of 1000 Medicine as a “must read” in acupuncture. Using a pain model model, they found a differential effect of acupuncture on pain mediated via the peripheral and central nervous system;
  2. assessing the role of acupuncture in multidisciplinary pain management via conducting clinical trials and systematic reviews for various types of pain, including chronic musculoskeletal pain, migraine, tension-type of headache, low back pain and fibromyalagia. She is a chief investigator of five clinical trials;
  3. understanding factors contributing to quality acupuncture treatment;
  4. using qualitative research methods to understand patients experience in acupuncture trials and pain management. With her team she has recently completed a study examining patients’ knowledge of and attitude to the use of opioid medications for the management of chronic non-cancer pain.


Book chapters

  • Zheng , Z.Traditional Chinese Medicine and AcupunctureIn: Essential Law, Ethics and Professional Issues in CAM. Editors: Zetler, J. and Bonello, R. Elsevier. (2011) 187 – 216.
  • Zheng , Z.How does acupuncture work? In: A Comprehensive Guide to Chinese Medicine. 1st ed. Editors: Cheng, Y. C., Leung, P. C. and Xue, C. C. L. (2003) 143-66. Singapore: World Scientific Ltd. ISBN 981-238-604-1.
  • Zheng , Z. Weeks, I. Therapy and practice in traditional Chinese medicine. In: Medicine, Healing and Society (1998) 51-61. Deakin University, Melbourne.

Journal articles (refereed)

  • Hao, A.; Xue, C. C. L.; Dong, L.; Zheng , Z. Factors associated with conflicting findings on acupuncture for tension-type headache: qualitative and quantitative analyses. review J Altern Complement Med (2012) accepted on 2 April 2012
  • Zheng , Z.; Xue, C. C. L. Pain research in complementary and alternative medicine in Australia: a critical review J Altern Complement Med (2012) accepted on 10 Nov 2011
  • Lu, S-C; Zheng , Z.; Xue, C. C. L. Does acupuncture improve quality of life for patients with pain associated with the spine? A systematic review E-CAM (2011) doi: 10.1155/2011/301767 (IF: 2.064)
  • Smith C, Zaslawski CJ, Zheng Z, Cobbin D, Cochrane S, Lenon GB, Loyeung B, Meier PC, Walsh S, Xue CC, Zhang AL, Zhu XS, Bensoussan A Development of an instrument to assess the quality of acupuncture: results from a Delphi process J Altern Complement Med (2011) 17 5 441 – 452. (IF: 1.498)
  • Zheng , Z.; Bai, L. H.; Li, C. G.; Xue, C. C. L. The differential effect of electroacupuncture on peripheral and central sensitisation in humans Anaesth Intensive Care (2010) 38 3 588-588
  • Zheng , Z.; Feng, S. J. Q.; da Costa, C.; Li, C. G.; Lu, D.; Xue, C. C. L. Acupuncture analgesia for temporal summation of experimental pain: A randomised controlled study Eur J Pain (2010) 14 725-31. (IF: 3.333)
  • Zheng , Z.; Gibson, S. J.; Helme, R. D.; McMeeken, J. M.. The effect of local anaesthetic on age-related capsaicin-induced mechanical hyperalgesia – A randomised, controlled study Pain (2009) 144 101-9. (IF: 6.030)
  • Zheng , Z. Response to: Madsen MV, Gøtzsche PC, Hróbjartsson A. Acupuncture treatment for pain: systematic review of randomised clinical trials with acupuncture, placebo acupuncture, and no acupuncture groups Aust J Acupunct Chin Med (2009) 4 1 34-6
  • Paterson, C.; Zheng , Z.; Xue, C. ; Wang, Y. Y. ‘Playing their part’: the experiences of participants in a randomised sham-controlled acupuncture trial. J Altern Complement Med (2008) 14 2 199-208. (IF: 1.051)
  • Zheng , Z.; Gou, R. X. J; Helme, R. D.; Muir, A.; Da Costa, C.; Xue, C. C. L. The effect of electroacupuncture on opioid-like medication consumption by chronic pain patients: A pilot randomized controlled clinical trial Eur J Pain (2008) 12 5 671-6. (IF: 3.333)
  • Deare, J.; Zheng , Z.; Xue, C. L.; Liu, J. P.; Shang, J. S.; Scott, S. W. Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia (protocol) Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2008) (IF: 5.182)
  • Wang, Y. Y.; Zheng , Z. ; Xue, C. L. Acupuncture for migraine: A systematic review of Chinese literature Aust J Acupunct Chin Med (2008) 3 1 3-16
  • Xue, C.C. L., Dong, L., Polus, B., English, R. A., Zheng , Z., Da Costa, C. and Story, D. Electroacupuncture for tension-type headache on distal acupoints only: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Headache (2004) 4(44): 333-41. (IF: 2.74)
  • Zheng , Z., Gibson, S., Khalil, Z., Helme, R. D. and McMeeken, J. (2000) Age-related differences in the development of capsaicin-induced hyperalgesia. Pain 85(1-2): 51-8. (IF: 6.030)

Conference papers (published in proceedings)

  • Zheng , Z.; Yang, A. W. H.; Man, S.; Xue, C.; Li, C. G.Teaching evidence-based Chinese medicine online – The use of electronic journal club. The Conference Proceedings of the 2nd World Congress on Chinese Medicine 140-6. (2003) Nanjing, China. ISBN 962-8713-868.
  • Zheng , Z.Ideal parameters for electroacupuncture analgesia: A review of neurophysiological and clinical evidence. The Conference Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the Victoria Chapter of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society 144-7. (2001) Melbourne, Australia.

Conference presentations (delivered)

More than 15 keynote or invited presentations were presented at national and international conferences, including the Annual Conference of Australia Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA), the International Symposium for Acupuncture Research (South Korea), International Symposium on Acupuncture, and the World Pain Clinic Congress.

Another 15 conference presentations were at the International Association for the Studies of Pain (IASP), Annual Conference of Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR), International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research (ICCMR) and the Annual Scientific Meeting of Australian Pain Society (APS)