A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that acupuncture relieves back pain better than conventional treatments.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, divided 638 participants with back pain into four groups. Two groups received acupuncture, one group received a placebo version of acupuncture (in which the skin was stimulated but not pierced), while the participants of the final group received no acupuncture, but continued whatever conventional treatment program they were on, be it pharmaceutical or physical therapy.
After seven weeks, all three groups who received acupuncture (or something like it) experienced greater and more meaningful improvement in their back pain than the usual-care group. Even placebo acupuncture techniques yielded positive results.
The placebo acupuncture being as good as needle acupuncture raised questions about how acupuncture works, and what it is about the technique that causes a therapeutic result. “What we can say is, it is not essential to achieve a benefit to insert the needle through the skin,” says Dan Cherkin PhD, key researcher. “One possibility is there is a physiological chain of events that occurs when you insert a needle or just stimulate the skin superficially. They may or may not be the same.” Another possibility: “believing you are getting a treatment that will help your back pain” actually does help it.
“Overall, 60% of the acupuncture-treated patients, but just 39% of the usual-care group patients had meaningful improvements in dysfunction,” a WebMD article states. Meaningful improvements refers to relief which allows patients to return to activities of daily living previously hindered by back pain.
Cherkin also remarks that Americans spend some $37 billion a year for medical care for back pain, and that acupuncture is a cost-effective option for those seeking treatment for the condition.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are increasingly recognized by the Western medical community as safe and effective pain management solutions. Many MDs recommend acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as an adjunct therapy to patients suffering from back pain.