Is Acupuncture Effective in Treating Lower Back Pain?

New Study Says Jury is Still Out

Acupuncture TreatmentLow back pain is a common condition which can be treated using a variety of conventional and alternative therapies. Complementary and alternative treatments, such as massage therapy, herbal remedies, and acupuncture, may help some patients manage their pain.

For more information about managing lower back pain, including an overview of popular complementary and alternative treatments, read our Patients’ Guide to Taking Control of Lower Back Pain.

A recent study set out to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating low back pain. The study, “The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic non-specific low back pain: a systematic review of the literature,” was published online ahead of print in October 2012. It appears in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research.

How the Study Was Conducted
The researchers conducted a review of previous literature that analyzed the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for low back pain. Studies published within the last 10 years were included in the review. By comparing a broad sample of studies, the researchers were able to reach conclusions about the effectiveness of this alternative treatment in helping patients with their pain.

What the Review of Research Found
The review identified 7 studies that met the researchers’ review criteria. Three of the studies found that patients who used acupuncture had significant differences in the amount of lower back pain they experienced than people who underwent conventional therapies, or people who did not receive care.

Two of the studies showed significant differences between the pain experienced by people who had acupuncture and people who did not after 8 weeks, and after 3 months. However, 3 studies did not find any significant differences between people who had acupuncture and people who did not. The study authors conclude that though their review shows some evidence that acupuncture may help treat lower back pain, no firm conclusions can be made about its effectiveness when compared to other treatments.

What this Study Means for You
Questions still remain about the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating low back pain. If you are interested in trying acupuncture or other alternative therapies for your lower back pain, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these treatments, as well as potential interactions with any conventional treatments you’re using.

Updated on: 02/29/16
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