Research: Acupuncture vs Conventional Medicine for Lower Back Pain

Posted in: Acupuncture, Lower Back Pain, Research | 0

This study appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 169 No. 9, May 11, 2009

The study followed 638 adults with chronic mechanical low back pain who were given one of the following treatments:

  1. individualized acupuncture (acupuncture treatment formula tailored to the patient)
  2. standardized acupuncture (typical acupuncture points for lower back pain)
  3. simulated acupuncture (sham acupuncture using toothpicks on acupuncture points)
  4. conventional medical treatments of medicine and physiotherapy

Ten treatments were provided over 7 weeks by experienced acupuncturists.  The results were as follows:

  • By the 8 week mark, all of the acupuncture groups showed an improvement of 4.4 or 4.5 while the conventional medicine group showed an improvement of only 2.1 points.
  • By the 8 week mark, the acupuncture groups reported improved symptoms of 1.6 to 1.9 while the conventional medicine group improved symptoms by only 0.7 points.
  • By the 1 year mark, the acupuncture groups showed clinically meaningful improvements in dysfunction of 59% to 65% vs the conventional medicine group which showed an improvement of 50%
  • In summary, the acupuncture groups showed a larger improvement, greater reduced symptoms and longer lasting improvements than conventional medicine.
  • It should also be noted that while the results of sham acupuncture were the same as real acupuncture, sham acupuncture also proved to yield much better results than conventional medicine.