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Study says acupuncture more effective for back pain

May 15, 2009 by  

Acupuncture may relieve back painThere is evidence that both real and simulated acupuncture provides greater relief of back pain than usual treatment methods, according to new research.

Scientists from Seattle compared four different types of treatment in a clinical trial involving 638 adults with chronic low back pain.

One group received usual care, while the rest were divided into three groups and underwent either an individually tailored acupuncture program, a standard acupuncture therapy or a simulation involving toothpicks at key acupuncture points.

After eight weeks, 60 percent of the participants receiving any type of acupuncture reported significant improvement in symptoms, compared with 39 percent of those receiving usual care.

After one year, 59 to 65 percent of those in the acupuncture groups experienced an improvement in function compared with 50 percent of the usual care group.

"For patients seeking a relatively safe and effective treatment for a condition for which conventional treatments are often ineffective, various methods of acupuncture point stimulation appear to be reasonable options," the authors wrote in Archives of Internal Medicine.

They also stressed the benefits stemming from the reduction in long-term exposure to the potential adverse effects of medications.

The article says back pain costs amount to at least $37 billion every year, and the condition is a major contributor to a lower quality of life.

According to a joint survey by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC, 40 percent of adults and 10 percent of children sought alternative medicine help for a range of health problems in 2007.ADNFCR-1961-ID-19173171-ADNFCR

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  • Jody

    Great article but how about some detail. What study? Who published it?

  • richard

    So this is what passes for science these days? The only thing that this study showed was that acupuncture worked the same as fake acupuncture. Translation….acupuncture is a sham. This would be no different than giving someone a multivitamin, telling them that it is a super strong pain reliever, them telling you that they felt less pain and then concluding that multivitamins relieve pain. It is a placebo effect. If acupuncture actually worked you would see better results with real acupuncture than fake acupuncture.

    • john

      richard, you’re an idiot. The article didn’t say “fake” acupuncture, it said “simulated”. The acupuncture points were stimulated, just not with needles. Acupuncture is not a placebo.

      • richard

        Yes it is a placebo. Show me a peer reviewed study that shows otherwise. Acupuncture when tested against a placebo, whether it be inserting needles into the wrong points, not inserting the needles at all, etc correctly done acupuncture never works any better than the aforementioned placebo. There was a time that I believed in and used acupuncture and it is a complete sham. It does nothing but effectively triggers a placebo effect. You can do the same thing with sugar pills and they don’t cost $100 a treatment with a ten treatment minimum.

    • Sue

      So, if acupuncture is a sham, why are more than a billion people using it? NTM, it has been practiced for approx. 4 thousand years. I think you should check with the WHO …..see what they think. You appear to be quite parochial in your thinking.
      As, a recipient for close to 30 years and a practitioner for 10, I can tell you there is nothing sham about it. No one has to believe that it works to get benefits. And, a surprising increase in patients, who are tired of the side effects of drugs, are showing up in acupuncture offices.

      Many insurance companies cover it. City employees of Austin, TX are covered for it.

      BTW: an acupuncturist would be irresponsible, IMO, not to recommend diet and possibly a lifestyle change. Did the doctors do so? I doubt it. If they believed diet would do the trick…..they themselves would have recommended it and then cancelled the dialysis.

      FYI: there is no jammin’ of needles. Considering they are filiform needles that would be a clever trick. You, sir, are quite obviously uniniformed.

      • richard

        I was wondering how long it would take the argument from antiquity logical fallacy to show up. Just because “people have done it for thousands of years” does not provide and scientific proof that a treatment works any better than a placebo. At best it could prompt a hypotheses that would need to be tested. If we follow the same logic should you not be blood letting to cure disease after all people did it for thousands of years or maybe we should preform an exorcism when someone has a seizure after all the did that hundreds of years ago so it must be right. Again I challenge you to show me any published peer reviewed study that shows acupuncture works better than a placebo.

        You also tell me that I am misinformed. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you had read my previous post you would have learned that at one time I bought into the whole alternative medicine sham. I had acupuncture performed on me more that 40 times for both a lower back injury and for sinus pain. Low and behold it never worked but strangely enough my doctors recommendation or rest, ice and iduprofen worked for my back injury and the Claritin D worked for my sinus pain. Now of course you will tell me that I did not want it to work and my doubt inhibited the flow of my qi. Again nothing could be further from the truth. I have spent most of my life in martial arts. I witnessed my sensei perform acupuncture more times than I could count and I wholeheartedly expected it to work, ergo my qi was doing just fine.

        In regards to your criticism of my ” jamming of needles” remark all I can say is that there is this concept called sarcasm that you might want to look into. Quite a few people us sarcasm these days and the ability to recognize its use is a valuable tool. I will however revise my statement so that you can understand it a bit better.

        It had to be the acupuncture because we all know that our diet has considerable less to do with our health then inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into one or more of the points on the meridians in which you qi flows.

        Now I know you think me to be a monster or some tool of big pharma. I truly believe that the majority of people performing acupuncture believe that they are helping people, providing a valuable service and that acupuncture works but the science simply is not there to support it. At best studies have shown It to be an incredibly good placebo when it comes to pain management. If you feel that it helps you get through your daily aches and pains and you get your money’s worth then who am I to argue. But when someone has a real medical crisis and they convinced by misinformation to forgo medical procedures that are proven to work I take issue with it. If you claim that acupuncture is harmless I will refer you to this link to prove otherwise. http://whatstheharm.net/acupuncture.html

  • Karen

    This works. I had a friend who tried this for his kidneys. He was suppose to go on dialysis, but in the mean time he began a steady treatment of acupuncture. He did change his diet also. That was a year ago. He has been re-evaluated and will not have to go on dialysis and there are no more talks about kidney transplants.
    Because of his good news another friend did the same for her back, she found it releived her pain, when she went. It was just hard to keep up, and costly, but so are medicines, that in addition to cost have side effects, and limit what you can do while taking them.

    • richard

      And you assume the change in diet had nothing to do with change in condition? It had to be the acupuncture because we all know that our diet has considerable less to do with our health then jamming needles into our body does.

  • Jon

    My wife suffered a stroke over a year a go with total paralysis of her left arm and leg.
    Nine months of conventional Physical and Occupational Therapy at home in the U.S.A. yielded very little improvement. Zero with her arm and slight movement of the left leg. She experienced chronic, moderate to severe leg pains for the past year, having to take Actemenophine and codeine #3 3-4 times daily.

    She began Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) acupuncture therapy six weeks ago in Singapore. She receives 3 one hour treatments weekly and is making steady progress with incresed function of her left leg where she can now take steps when supported and moves her left leg a lot while sleeping. All of the chronic leg pain was totally gone after the second treatment and she has not had to take any more pain medication. Improvment of the arm has been less successful with only slight movement of the fingers so far. We have extended our stay in Singapore for two months to continue this regimen as long as progress is being made.

  • Jon

    One more thing regarding acupuncture treatment for stroke in Singapore
    The cost is very reasonable. The Chinese doctor performs the service as a house call at our son’s apartment here. Price, $Sing 100 per one hour visit. About $66 U.S. dollars per one hour visit

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