Acupuncture helps back pain25th September 2007
Researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany have found in a recent study that almost half the chronic back pain patients they treated with acupuncture experienced lasting pain relief.
But the report, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, also found that those treated with a placebo form of acupuncture showed results too.
Heinz Endres, who led the team, said the research had showed that acupuncture represents a highly promising and effective treatment option for chronic back pain.
The findings also suggested that the body may react positively to any thin needle prick - or that acupuncture may simply trigger a placebo effect.
One possible explanation is that pain messages to the brain can be blocked by competing stimuli.
Endres said participants in the study experienced not only reduced pain intensity, but also improvements in the disability that often results from back pain and therefore in their quality of life.
Researchers treated one group of the 1,100 participants with acupuncture and another group with 'fake' acupuncture in which the needles were inserted shallowly into the skin without regard to the pressure points agreed upon by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
A third group received conventional therapies like painkillers, injections, heat therapy and massage.
After six months of treatment, 47% of the acupuncture group reported a significant improvement in their symptoms, compared with 44% in the group that received fake acupuncture. Of the group receiving conventional therapy, only 27% reported an improvement.
Traditional Chinese medicine applies needles to certain 'meridians' in the body according to ancient diagrams of the currents of life energy, or qi, in the body.
The study echoes the findings of two studies published last year in the British Medical Journal, which found a short course of acupuncture could benefit patients with low back pain.
Mike O'Farrell, of the British Acupuncture Council, said the controlled research findings had served to demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture, paving the way for its inclusion as part of an integrated healthcare service.
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