Acupuncture Helps Relieve Chronic Low Back Pain

In three months, back function improves 9.4 points more in acupuncture patients than controls

FRIDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic back pain patients randomized to treatment with acupuncture show more improvement than patients randomized to routine therapy alone, but not as much as non-randomized acupuncture patients, researchers report in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Claudia M. Witt, M.D., of Charite University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues compared the effects of acupuncture on 11,630 randomized and non-randomized German patients with chronic low back pain in 2001. Overall, 1,549 patients were randomized to receive acupuncture and 1,544 were randomized to a non-acupuncture control group. The remaining 8,537 patients became part of a non-randomized group receiving acupuncture.

Three months later, the researchers found that back function improved 2.7 to 65.1 points in controls, which was 9.4 points below patients randomized to acupuncture, who had a 12.1 to 74.5 point improvement. The non-randomized acupuncture group showed more improvement (14.6 to 75.9 points, or 1.5 points higher) than the randomized acupuncture group.

"Non-randomized patients had more severe symptoms at baseline and showed improvements in back function similar to those seen in randomized patients," the authors write. "The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was 10.526 euros per quality-adjusted life year. Acupuncture plus routine care was associated with marked clinical improvements in these patients and was relatively cost-effective."

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