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Acupuncture Eases Lower Back Pain

British Study Shows Small, Long-Term Benefit
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No Sham Group continued...

The study included 241 adults who had had nonspecific low back painback pain for four to 52 weeks.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either standard care or acupuncture, along with individualized treatment administered by a general practitioner. Standard care included medications, back exercises, and physiotherapy (such as massage therapy).

Pain levels were assessed at 12 and 24 months. Also, the researchers measured use of pain medication and patient satisfaction with treatment at three, 12, and 24 months.

At three months, patients in the acupuncture group were much more likely to report being "very satisfied" with their treatment than those who did not get the therapy.

And at 24 months, the acupuncture group was more likely to report less worry about their back pain and less use of pain drugs.

They were also more likely to report having no pain for at least a year, leading the authors to conclude acupuncture provided long-lasting benefits.

"This was one of the most unexpected findings," MacPherson says.

In a separate analysis, acupuncture was also found to be cost effective compared with the usual treatment without acupuncture.

Evidence is mounting that acupuncture can help people with low back pain, but few studies have compared the treatment to other nonconventional therapies.

Chiropractic approaches to pain control are widely used in the United States. And at least one recent study showed benefits for acupressure, which does not use needles.

"There has been very little research comparing treatments head to head, so we can't say much about which ones work best," Manheimer says.

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