'Sham' Acupuncture as Effective as the Real Thing in Treating Back Pain

September 26, 2007 05:06 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
New research indicates that traditional verum acupuncture is more effective than mainstream medicine in controlling pain, but no more so than “sham” acupuncture.

30-Second Summary

The six-month study, conducted by researchers in Germany, monitored 1,162 patients suffering from chronic lower back pain.

Each patient entered one of three groups of approximately equal size. One group received traditional verum acupuncture. Sham acupuncture was applied to members of a second group. These patients underwent “superficial needling,” in which the needles went only just below the skin and avoided all the target points (known as verums and meridians) identified by professional acupuncturists.

The remaining patients were treated with a combination of medication, exercise, and physical therapy.

The report concluded that verum and sham acupuncture were respectively 20.2 and 16.8 percent more effective than conventional therapy in the treatment of lower back pain. The improvements observed “were significant and lasted long after completion of treatment,” the authors wrote.

Although these findings support the efficacy of acupuncture, they also suggest that the body may respond positively to any superficial needling of an affected area. Acupuncture may not be the exact science some practitioners claim.

The research was funded by German health insurance companies, and has led to a rise in interest in acupuncture in Germany.

Headline Links: The acupuncture research

Acupuncture as a treatment for lower back pain

Reference Material: Assessing acupuncture's effectiveness

Background: Prior research

Related Links: Using acupuncture to quit smoking


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