According to a study in the September 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA Archives journals, six months of acupuncture treatment appears to be more effective than conventional therapy in treating low back pain. Although the study suggests that both sham acupuncture and traditional Chinese acupuncture appear to be effective in treating low back pain.

In the article, authors wrote that low back pain is a common, impairing and disabling condition, often long-term, with an estimated lifetime prevalence of 70 percent to 85 percent. It is the second most common pain for which physician treatment is sought and a major reason for absenteeism and disability. Acupuncture is widely used as an alternative therapy, but its value as a treatment for low back pain is still controversial.

Michael Haake, Ph.D., M.D., of the University of Regensburg, Bad Abbach, Germany, and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial involving 1,162 patients with an average age 50, who had experienced chronic low back pain for an average of eight years. Patients underwent ten 30-minute sessions with approximately two sessions per week of acupuncture, sham acupuncture or conventional therapy. Verum acupuncture consisted of needling fixed points and additional points to a depth of 5 millimeters to 40 millimeters based on traditional Chinese medicine, while sham acupuncture consisted of inserting needles superficially into the lower back avoiding all known verum points or meridians. Conventional therapy consisted of a combination of medication, physical therapy and exercise. Five additional sessions were offered to those who had a partial response to treatment.
The author’s wrote that a total of 13,475 treatment sessions were conducted. Patients receiving the additional five sessions were 232 in the verum group, 209 in the sham group and 192 in the conventional group.

Response rate was defined as a 33 percent improvement in pain or a 12 percent improvement in functional ability. “At six months, response rate was 47.6 percent in the verum acupuncture group, 44.2 percent in the sham acupuncture group and 27.4 percent in the conventional therapy group,” the authors note. “Differences among groups were as follows: verum vs. sham, 3.4 percent; verum vs. conventional therapy, 20.2 percent; and sham vs. conventional therapy, 16.8 percent.”

The authors then conclude that the superiority of both forms of acupuncture West Orange 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. Acupuncture gives physicians a promising and effective treatment option for chronic low back pain, with few adverse effects or contraindications. The improvements in all primary and secondary outcome measures were significant and lasted long after completion of treatment.