Acupuncture May Benefit Patients with Low Back Pain

Verum acupuncture, sham acupuncture may be nearly twice as effective as conventional therapy

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with low back pain, both traditional Chinese verum acupuncture and sham acupuncture may be more effective than conventional therapy, researchers report in the Sept. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Michael Haake, Ph.D., M.D., of the University of Regensburg in Bad Abbach, Germany, and colleagues randomly assigned 1,162 patients to receive verum acupuncture, sham acupuncture or conventional therapy.

After six months, the researchers found that the response rate -- which was defined as a 33 percent improvement in pain or a 12 percent improvement in functional ability -- was 47.6 percent in the verum acupuncture group, 44.2 percent in the sham acupuncture group and 27.4 percent in the conventional therapy group.

"The superiority of both forms of acupuncture suggests a common underlying mechanism that may act on pain generation, transmission of pain signals, or processing of pain signals by the central nervous system and that is stronger than the action mechanism of conventional therapy," the authors write. "The underlying mechanism may be a kind of super-placebo effect produced by placebo and all non-specific factors working together. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of acupuncture cannot be attributed merely to a placebo effect because there is no reason to believe that the action mechanism of conventional therapy is the result solely of the placebo effect."

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