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Benefits Of Acupuncture For Lower Back Pain




By Margarita Nahapetyan

The U.S largest scientific study of back pain and acupuncture found that acupuncture can relieve chronic low-back pain much more efficiently than customer medical treatment than involves medication and physical therapy. The study also found that the toothpick method, which involved no piercing of skin, was just as effective as needle insertion.

Several studies have indicated that simulated acupuncture or shallow needling on parts of the body that are not considered key acupuncture points appears to be as effective as acupuncture that penetrates the skin. For many patients, this benefit lasted for a year, the team of scientists of Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle reported Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. "Our study shows that you do not need to stick needles into people to get the same effect," said Dr. Daniel Cherkin, a lead investigator of the study. Researchers explained that historically, some types of acupuncture have been using needles that did not penetrate the skin. Such treatments may involve physiological effects that make a clinical difference.

For the purposes of the new, large and very carefully controlled study, the team of experts involved 638 back pain sufferers and randomly assigned them into several different groups. The first group of 158 patients received seven weeks of standardized acupuncture course which is known to be effective in treatment of back pain. The second group of 157 participants received an individually prescribed 10 acupuncture treatments. A third group of 162 patients was treated using 10 sessions of a simulated acupuncture that involved mimicking needle insertions using toothpicks hidden in guide tubes that did not pierce the skin as regular acupuncture does, but targeting the correct acupuncture "points." 161 patients in the fourth group just got regular medical treatment, which included medication and physical therapy.

The treatment lasted for three weeks twice per week and then once on weekly basis for a period of one month. At intervals of 8 weeks, 6 months and one year, the investigators analyzed the symptoms of back pain and their effect on patients' quality of life. Eight weeks later, 60 per cent of the patients who received any type of acupuncture reported clinically meaningful improvement in their ability level to function, when compared with 39 per cent of those who got just regular medical care. At the one-year point, between 59 and 65 per cent of patients who received the acupuncture treatment, experienced an improvement, compared with 50 per cent of individuals in the standard care group. However, the placebo "toothpick" treatment turned out to be just as good at combating back pain as real acupuncture.

Dr. Cherkin said that the experiment helped the scientists realize that "fake," simulated acupuncture, without penetrating the skin, produced as much benefit as needle acupuncture, and this is the factor that raises questions about how acupuncture works. A physical process that is not known yet may take place here, but another possible explanation could be a "mind-over-body" effect, the expert suggested. Dr. Cherkin added that the investigators have no proven facts so far which could indicate why individuals had back pain relief from the simulated acupuncture. "Maybe the context in which people get treatment has effects that are more important than the mechanically induced effects," he concluded.



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