Study: Acupuncture Eases Low Back Pain
Patients Report More Pain Relief From Acupuncture Than Conventional Treatment
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 24, 2007 -- Acupuncture proved to be more effective than conventional
lower back pain treatments in a new study, but it was no more effective than a
sham needle procedure.
The German study compared outcomes among 1,162 patients with chronic low
back pain treated with traditional Chinese acupuncture; sham acupuncture; or a
conventional approach to treating back pain using drugs, physical therapy, and
The study is the largest investigation of acupuncture vs. conventional
nonsurgical treatment for lower back pain ever reported, researchers say.
"Acupuncture represents a highly promising and effective treatment
option for chronic back pain," researcher Heinz Endres, MD, tells WebMD.
"Patients experienced not only reduced pain intensity, but also reported
improvements in the disability that often results from back pain -- and
therefore in their quality of life."
Acupuncture for Back Pain
Endres says up to 85% of people will suffer from low back pain at some point
in their lives. The pain may last for a few days or continue as chronic low
back pain for months and years.
While a recent review of research showed acupuncture to be useful for the
treatment of low back pain when given in addition to other therapies, the
latest study was designed to determine if acupuncture is an effective treatment
on its own.
Acupuncture was delivered in 10, 30-minute sessions conducted over six
weeks. Patients who received conventional treatments had a similar number of
total treatments, which included exercise, pain medication, and nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The acupuncture groups were allowed to use medication for acute episodes of
back pain only. This consisted of NSAID use no more than two days a week during
the treatment period.
Traditional acupuncture involved inserting needles at fixed points and
depths on the body and manipulating the needles in accordance with ancient
With the sham treatment, needles were inserted in the lower back at
shallower depths at non-acupuncture points and the needles were not
Patients who got the traditional and sham acupuncture treatments were almost
twice as likely to report treatment-related responses six months later as
patients who did not have acupuncture.
Responses were defined as a 33% improvement in pain or a 12% improvement in
"Because acupuncture has a low risk of side effects and few
contraindications, it should be added to the catalogue of treatments
recommended for acute and chronic back pain, even though -- just as for any
other form of treatment -- there will always be some patients who do not
respond," Endres says.