Randomised controlled trial of a short course of traditional acupuncture compared with usual care for persistent non-specific low back pain

K J Thomas, H MacPherson, L Thorpe, J Brazier, M Fitter, M J Campbell ,M Roman, S J Walters, J Nicholl

The objective of this study was to determine whether a short course of traditional acupuncture improves longer term outcomes for patients with persistent non-specific low back pain in primary care. 241 adults aged 18-65 with non-specific low back pain of 4-52 weeks' duration recieved 10 individualised acupuncture treatments from one of six qualified acupuncturists (160 patients) or usual care only (81 patients). The results showed that at 12 months average SF-36 pain scores increased by 33.2 to 64.0 in the acupuncture group and by 27.9 to 58.3 in the control group. The authors concluded that weak evidence was found of an effect of acupuncture on persistent non-specific low back pain at 12 months, but stronger evidence of a small benefit at 24 months. Referral to a qualified traditional acupuncturist for a short course of treatment seems safe and acceptable to patients with low back pain.

BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38878.907361.7C (published 15 September 2006)

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