Back Pain: Study

Acupuncture more effective than conventional treatments for back pain: study

Suffering from low back pain? Acupuncture might be a better option than conventional medication, physical therapy and exercise, according to a new study.

“Our study, which directly compared the conventional, non-surgical treatments with acupuncture, showed that patients who were treated with acupuncture over a period of about six weeks experienced nearly 50 per cent decrease in pain intensity, while those treated with physical therapy and other conventional treatments over a period of six weeks had less than 25 per cent improvement,” Heinz Endres, one of the authors, told

The findings are published in the Sept. 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

German researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial involving 1,162 patients, with an average age of 50, that had suffered chronic low back pain for approximately eight years.

Study participants were broken into several groups. One group of 387 patients underwent 10, 30-minute sessions of verum acupuncture, which consisted of inserting needles into fixed points to a depth of five millimetres to 40 millimetres, based on traditional Chinese medicine.

Another group of 387 patients underwent “sham” acupuncture for the same time period, which consisted of inserting needles superficially (one millimetre to three millimetres) into the lower back avoiding all known verum points or meridians.

‘Acupuncture has not yet been recommended as a routine therapy. We think this will change with our study.’— Heinz Endres

And a third group of 388 patients underwent conventional therapy, which involved a combination of medication (analgesics), physical therapy and exercise for 30 minutes a session for 10 sessions.

In the study, the response rate was defined as a 33 per cent improvement in pain or a 12 per cent improvement in functional ability.

“At six months, response rate was 47.6 per cent in the verum acupuncture group, 44.2 per cent in the sham acupuncture group and 27.4 per cent in the conventional therapy group,” reads the study.

“The superiority of both forms of acupuncture suggests a common underlying mechanism that may act on pain generation, transmission of pain signals or processing of pain signals by the central nervous system and that is stronger than the action mechanism of conventional therapy,” the authors conclude.

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Posted in Back Pain.