Low back pain is one of the most prevalent causes of disability among adults of working age. Acupuncture is known to be an effective treatment of cLBP, but it is still uncertain whether acupuncture is superior to placebo. This is a multicenter, randomized, patient-assessor blind, sham-controlled clinical trial that was intended to investigate the efficacy of acupuncture treatment with individualized setting for reduction of discomfort in participants with chronic low back pain (cLBP). One hundred thirty adults aged 18 to 65 years with nonspecific LBP lasting for at least last 3 months before the trial participated in the study from 3 Korean medical hospitals. Participants received individualised real acupuncture treatments or sham acupuncture treatments for more than 6 weeks (twice a week) from Korean Medicine doctors. Primary outcome was change of visual analogue scale (VAS) score for invasive discomfort of cLBP. Secondary outcomes included VAS score for pain intensity and questionnaires that included Oswestry Disability Index, general health status (Short Form-36), and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The study observed no baseline differences between the 2 groups, except in the Oswestry Disability Index. One hundred sixteen participants finished the treatments and 3- and 6-month follow-ups, with 14 subjects dropping out. Significant difference in VAS score for invasive discomfort and pain intensity score of cLBP has been found between the 2 groups (P < 0.05) at the primary end point (8 wk). In addition, those 2 scores improved continuously until 3-month follow-up (P = 0.011, P = 0.005, respectively). Oswestry Disability Index, the Beck Depression Inventory, and Short Form-36 scores were also improved in both groups without group difference.
This study suggests that acupuncture treatment shows better effect on the reduction of the discomfort and pain intensity than sham control in participants with cLBP.