German study shows strong evidence supporting Acupuncture as an effective treatment option for chronic lower back pain: A German study published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007 covered the largest and most rigorous trial ever undertaken to investigate the analgesic effects of acupuncture versus traditional medical approaches to relieve lower back pain. This study involved 1,802 patients and 13,475 treatments and concluded that acupuncture “constituted a strong treatment alternative to multimodal conventional therapy, giving physicians a promising and effective treatment option for chronic lower back pain.”
MRI study reveals changes in the brain while undergoing Acupuncture
Studies point to objective evidence showing acupuncture works as a form of pain relief. At the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), subjects in pain were given acupuncture while being monitored using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technology that reveals what parts of the brain are receiving increased blood flow. Increased blood flow to different areas of the brain indicates that those areas of the brain are being stimulated. The fMRI showed considerably decreased levels of brain activity associated with the pain. Researchers said
“We found activity subsided in 60 to 70 percent of the entire brain,” “Interestingly, in each subject, we detected pain-induced activity in different areas of the brain.” “We could see the brain activity associated with the pain subsiding even as the patients reported they were experiencing relief,”
“Since the MRI definitively showed different brain activity, it was highly likely the increased tolerance to pain was real and not due to a placebo effect”.
Researchers of the study concluded that “It is important for Western medicine to recognize that these acupoints really mean something in regard to pain relief,” Dr. Lee concluded. “So many people with pain, whether from cancer, headache or a chronic, unexplained condition, rely on medications such as morphine, which can become addicting. Acupuncture as no side effects, and other studies have shown the pain relief it provides can last for months.”
Study Analysis Shows Acupuncture Effective for Treating Chronic Low Back Pain
Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, U.K., analyzed dozens of studies from around the world on acupuncture for low back pain to see if acupuncture was actually helpful in the treatment of back pain. study’s results released in April 18th 2013 in the Annals of Internal Medicine .The reviewers scoured the medical literature for all studies involving acupuncture for treating low back pain. To minimize bias, the American and British teams developed explicit criteria for evaluating the studies and did the evaluations independently. Their analysis included only randomized controlled trials, the gold standard study design for evaluating medical procedures.
Thirty-three studies covering more than 2,100 patients met the criteria for review. In the end, the researchers used 22 of these studies for their analysis. All 22 evaluated Chinese-style acupuncture for chronic low back pain, defined as pain that has been on-going for more than three months. The other 11 studies were excluded because they either only reported data that could not be combined statistically, they only included patients with acute back pain or pregnancy-related back pain or they involved forms of acupuncture other than traditional Chinese acupuncture.
Manheimer says, “We wanted the studies for the analysis to meet the highest scientific standards. As a way to account for a possible placebo effect, we looked at many studies that used ”sham acupuncture” as a control group, where acupuncture needles were inserted only superficially or in the wrong place.”
The sham acupuncture studies were double-blinded, meaning neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was receiving the real or the sham treatment. When looking at those studies, the reviewers found the differences in pain ratings showed a significant difference between the real acupuncture and the sham acupuncture groups, indicating that the benefit was not just due to the placebo effect.
The conclusions of the analysis came to the following conclusions:
- “For people with chronic low back pain, this analysis shows that acupuncture is clearly effective in providing considerable pain relief,” “The research also showed that acupuncture provided true pain relief. The benefit was not just due to the placebo effect.”
- “From our analysis, the message for people with chronic low back pain is that acupuncture is a truly effective therapy that provides significant pain relief,”
- The researchers evaluated the effects of acupuncture both in the short-term (defined as three weeks after the last acupuncture treatment) as well as in the longer term. They found acupuncture provided definite pain relief in the short-term, and this relief appeared to be sustained over the longer term.
Previous attempts to synthesize information on acupuncture and chronic low back pain provided mixed results. But since 1999, the publication of five high quality, large-scale studies has added new evidence for the analysis. The current analysis includes these newer studies as well as earlier research not included in previous reviews.
In all, this analysis contains more than twice as many studies as earlier reviews and includes reports in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean as well as Germanic and Romance languages. For this study, the reviewers received funding from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
When Acupuncture is Not a great option:
Acupuncture is not for every lower back pain condition. IF you have a structural problem such as spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disorder, if there is a structural problem then acupuncture will not be very helpful. Acupuncture may help palliatively, meaning it can help reduce the pain, but the relief will not be long lasting. It also depends on the severity of the condition is it severe stenosis or partial? Is it a total degenerative disc disorder, or is it a partial. All of these conditions need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. The general rule is the more structural the harder it is to make a change over it. When dealing with nerves and soft muscle tissue, it is more amenable for change and treatment. The other cases may be better with surgical options. In those cases, check with and speak with your doctor. In some cases, if it is a coin toss and not clear cut, there can be improvement and change. Treatment is often the only way to know if this will occur.
If you’re interested in trying acupuncture to improve your lower back pain, here are the steps you need to take:
Give the process an honest effort, before you decide if it helps or not. Recommending 12 treatments for most cases of uncomplicated back pain is a good try. Many will start to see relief in as little as four visits in many cases, while for others it may several weeks before you notice major changes, due to re-aggravation due to work or family demands.
Find the right acupuncturist. Acupuncture is more than just needles. You need to be able to relate to the acupuncturist as a person.
Want more help? I would like to give you a chance to get to know me and to find out more if acupuncture can be of help to you. Ask for your complementary 30 minute consultation to see if acupuncture can be of benefit to you.
If you are ready to take control of your health and life now, call 201-444-7150. We are never too busy to help you with your healthcare needs.
 “German Acupuncture Trials (GERAC) from Chronic Lower Back Pain”, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007; 167 (17).