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Health Team

Study: Acupuncture Best for Back Pain

Posted October 8, 2007

Acupuncture – known as an alternative therapy in the United States – is more effective at treating back pain than traditional medical methods, according to a recent study.

Back-pain sufferers who participated in the study found more relief from the ancient Chinese healing art than from physical therapy and drugs. The study, conducted by German researchers, was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Zona Horton learned the same lesson after injuring her back in a car crash. She said pills, physical therapy and special exercises could not get rid of the pain.

"Nothing seemed to work. I couldn't lay on my right side. I couldn't sleep on my right side," she said.

Horton said she found the trick when she turned to Dr. Carmion Pope, an acupuncture specialist.

"It's been wonderful for me. It worked," she said, adding that she now feels almost back to normal.

The German researchers divided 1,000 people who suffered from chronic lower back pain into three groups. One group received acupuncture, and a second got drugs, physical therapy and exercise.

The third group was treated with sham acupuncture, in which needles are placed in the skin but not deeply enough or at the proper points.

After six months, 46 percent of patients getting traditional or sham acupuncture reported significant pain relief. Only 27 percent of patients said they responded well to standard medical treatment.

In a separate analysis, acupuncture was also found to be more cost-effective than the usual treatment without acupuncture.

Even sham acupuncture can increase levels of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, Pope explained.

"By doing acupuncture, people are getting that endorphin release. They're getting that mind-body connection, and that's what makes it work," she said.

5 Comments

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  • mep Oct 10, 2007

    The study did not explore "sham" physical therapy or placebo drugs. That would have showed even sham medicine have an impact.

    And yes even chiropractic care should have been included... even though personally I feel that it is "mostly" a sham practice. (My wife is an occupantional therapist) The last flier I recieve from a chiropractic clinic claimed it could cure everything from acne to sterility. I'm also concerned with any practice that wants to set you up on a treatment program that lasts for years. My experience, chiropractic care sometimes you feel better, but then you have to keep coming unless you treat the problem, not just the pain.

  • scotty16 Oct 10, 2007

    Acupuncture has been around for over 3,000 years. What I have seen is that things that don't work in our culture disappear. Instead Acupuncture is one of the fastest growing Medicines in the World.

    The key to it working is finding a practitioner with good experience, most Acupuncturists in the U.S. receive anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000 hours of training, this is 3-4 years, equivilent to medical schools, where as Chiropractors and Medical Doctors receive 100-300 hours. So there is a difference.

    In addition, always ask how many patients they have treated and how many years they have been in practice, as this matters.
    I
    n many states Acupuncture is considered Primary healthcare by insurance companies, not so in North Carolina, and it should be, in addition to calling your governement officials, call your insurance companies and let them know as well.

    Truth is, Acupuncture does work and amazingly well. In th long run it is much less expensive and can actually prevent illness

  • napdog123 Oct 9, 2007

    INSURANCE COMPANIES SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO COVER ACUPUNCTURE!!! THIS IS A KNOWN HEALER FOR PAIN AND COULD SAVE INSURANCE COMPANIES MONEY! PEOPLE OF NORTH CAROLINA...CONTACT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES AND STATE SENATORS AND DEMAND THEY MAKE INSURANCE CARRIERS IN THIS STATE COVER ACUPUNCTURE!!!! THEY CAN DO IT BY PASSING A LAW!!!!

  • davido Oct 9, 2007

    There is also a wide variation within the fields of acupuncture and chiropractic: differing styles, diagnostic techniques, and of course, varying levels of competency. One controversy currently brewing is the fact that MD's are permitted to perform acupuncture after relatively little training compared with acupuncturists who have studied for years to become licensed.

    One thing they don't comment on in this story is the difference in results between the "sham" acupuncture and the "real" acupuncture. I heard of a study where the sham vs. real differences were not very great, which means if you get a friend to jab you in the back with a fork you may be cured! (don't try this at home kids!) The problem with a study like that is the expertise of the practitioners, which is pretty difficult to measure.

    Moral: before you go for back surgery, try everything else!

  • CestLaVie Oct 9, 2007

    Well duh!!! They didn't even use or compare chiropractic intervention in this study. How biased these MEDICAL studies can be!!!!! Many in the medical field today still do not recognize the chiropractic field as a viable treatment option for back pain. This makes the study skewed, in my opinion. Don't leave out one of the BEST alternative options.

    Acupuncture may be ANOTHER great way to go to solve back pain, but its acceptance in this country has a LONG way to go, if chiropractic care is not even included in this study. And it's been around as a mainstream treatment for a long time.

    Treatments like acupuncture & chiropractic care for back pain could, together, make the AMA the underdog in all this. Since they certainly don't want that, watch out!!! Let the consumer beware.