Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

The most common pain complaint is back pain. 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. I certainly have. In 2007 Yao-chi et al ran an RCT study of 300 patients receiving electroacupuncture (EA: wires are connected to the needles and stimulated with a battery pack) for acute lumbar sprain. The researchers re-evaluated at 1 week and 1 month intervals. The control group received drugs.

In the short-term, the effective rate was 97.3% in the EA group and 89.2% in the medication group (p<0. 01). In the long-term, the effective rate was 99.3% in the EA group and 93.2% in the medication group (p<0. 01). The researchers concluded that both the short-term and the long-term therapeutic effects of electroacupuncture at the acupoint SI 3 on acute lumbar sprain are better than those of medication.  

In 2007, Haake et al designed a 3-arm, double blind RTC

conducted in Germany involving 340 outpatient practices, including 1162 patients aged 18 to 86 years with a history of chronic low back pain for a mean of 8 years. Patients underwent ten 30-minute sessions, generally 2 sessions per week, of verum acupuncture (n = 387) according to principles of traditional Chinese medicine; sham acupuncture (n = 387) consisting of superficial needling at nonacupuncture points; or conventional therapy, a combination of drugs, physical therapy, and exercise (n = 388). Five additional sessions were offered to patients who had a partial response to treatment (10%-50% reduction in pain intensity). Primary outcome was response after 6 months. 

CONCLUSIONS:  Low back pain improved after acupuncture treatment for at least 6 months. Effectiveness of acupuncture, either verum or sham, was almost twice that of conventional therapy.