Acupuncture effectively treats chronic low back pain

February 27, 2012

Acupuncture, Back pain, Health

The research also showed that acupuncture provided true pain relief. The benefit was not just due to the placebo effect.”

by Kim Blankenship — 

British and American researchers at the Peninsula Medical School in England and the University of Maryland School of Medicine analyzed numerous international studies on acupuncture therapy for low back pain. The teams worked independently, and reviewers only included randomized controlled trials.

According to Eric Manheimer, study author and director of database and evaluation at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, “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.”

Researchers used 22 studies that all evaluated traditional Chinese-style acupuncture treatments for chronic low back pain, which had been ongoing for more than three months. “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,” says Manheimer.

Only double-blind sham acupuncture studies, or those in which neither the participants nor the researchers were aware of who was receiving real or sham treatments, were used. Reviewers discovered a significant difference in pain levels between the real acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups, indicating that the benefits were not just due to the placebo effect.

Acupuncture effects were evaluated in the short term, meaning three weeks after the last acupuncture treatment and in the long term, as well. The researchers discovered that definite short-term pain relief was provided and that these benefits appear to be sustained in the long run, but more studies are underway to be certain of the long-term effects.

According to Manheimer, “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. Patients with low back pain have many options for treatment, including medication, chiropractic care, physical therapy and back exercises. However, these treatments do not always help, and scientific evidence indicates that they have only modest effectiveness.”


Kim Blankenship, M.S.O.M., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist who practices at Jade Spirit Community Acupuncture in Phoenix. He founded Arizona’s first Community Acupuncture clinic in order to make acupuncture affordable and accessible to many people. 602-957-3675 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

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