Can Acupuncture help lower back pain?
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people see a health care provider. It has been estimated that up to 80% of the world's population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, with the lower back as the most common location of pain.Although most episodes of low back pain last less than two weeks, research has shown that recurrence rates for low back pain can reach as high as 50% in the first few months following an initial episode.1, 2
While there is no definitive way to resolve lower back pain, the use of acupuncture to treat this condition has increased dramatically in the past few decades, based in a large extent to placebo-controlled studies that have validated it as a reliable method of pain relief. The results of a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain3 provide further proof that acupuncture is a safe and effective procedure for low-back pain, and that it can maintain positive outcomes for periods of six months or longer without producing the negative side-effects that often accompany more traditional pain remedies.
Drs. Christer Carlsson and Bengt Sj˜lund of the Lund University Hospital in Sweden recruited 50 patients (33 women, 17 main) from a tertiary level pain clinic for their study. The median age of the participants was 49.8; each patient had been suffering chronic low back pain for a minimum of six months and had tried a variety of other therapies (such as corsets, nerve blocks, drugs and physiotherapy) to treat their condition, but to no avail.
Subjects were randomly assigned to a manual acupuncture group, an electroacupuncture group or a placebo group. Treatment sessions lasted a total of 20 minutes each and were delivered once per week for eight weeks, with the same amount of time and care given to all patients in each group. A followup treatment was given after two months, and a tenth and final treatment was given after an additional two months.Figure I: Flowchart of the study design.
In the manual group, local points on the lower back and distal points on the lower limbs, forearms and hands were used. The number of needles used per patient increased from an average of eight during the first session to as many as 18 during the third or fourth session. Needles were stimulated three times during each session to attain de qi.