December 2013

Acupuncture Studied for Chronic Low Back Pain

Acupuncture may be a beneficial treatment option for people with chronic low back pain, according to a new study.

The practice of acupuncture originated in China 5,000 years ago. Today it is widely used throughout the world and is one of the main pillars of Chinese medicine. Acupuncture has been shown to effectively treat some health conditions, including pain. However, the mechanism of action remains unclear. Additionally, a central problem with acupuncture research is the difficulty of designing a valid placebo control. It is clear that such a therapy cannot easily be delivered by a practitioner blinded to the intervention in the way a physician prescribing a sugar pill might be. This has led to difficulty in interpreting study results.

In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 143 patients with chronic low back pain to participate in a standard rehabilitation program plus two acupuncture treatments weekly, or to participate in the rehabilitation program alone. Participants completed questionnaires before and after study treatment started, as well as three months after the study ended. Quality of life, attitudes towards Traditional Chinese Medicine and clinical data were among the study questions.

The researchers found that participants in the acupuncture group reported significantly improved general health and physical functioning when compared to those who only participated in rehabilitation. Furthermore, those treated with acupuncture reported significantly reduced pain when sitting or standing and when carrying weight. Tingling in hands and feet also subsided in the acupuncture group. The authors also noted that major adverse effects were lacking.

The authors concluded that acupuncture may be beneficial for patients with chronic low back pain. While promising, further well-designed clinical trials are necessary to confirm these findings.

For more information about integrative therapies for back pain, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about acupuncture, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.

To comment on this story, please visit Natural Standard's blog.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Weiß J, Quante S, Xue F, et al. Effectiveness and Acceptance of Acupuncture in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Prospective, Randomized, Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jun 5. 

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