Researchers in Canada have found that patients receiving acupuncture for lower back pain, are less likely subsequently to re-visit their GP for the problem, thus saving on healthcare costs.
The study examined 201 cases in which lower back pain was treated with acupuncture, and compared these with 804 controls, all drawn from acupuncture clinic and physician’s patient records in Alberta. Comparing the one year period pre-acupuncture with the one year post-acupuncture, physician visits by patients in the acupuncture group, decreased by 49%, whereas in the comparison group, the equivalent figure was only 2%. This flowed through into healthcare cost reductions of 37% for the acupuncture group, and 1% for the comparison group.
(Reduced Health Resource Use after Acupuncture for Low-Back Pain. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Nov 2011.)
A pilot study looking at two different frequencies of treatment by acupuncture for chronic lower back pain, has found that improvements achieved within the first two weeks, were still present at one year follow-up.
Thirty participants with chronic lower back pain were randomly allocated to two groups to receive ten acupuncture treatments: the low frequency group received two treatments per week for five weeks, whilst the high frequency group received five treatments per week for two weeks. No significant differences were found between the groups in terms of measured outcomes, but clinically important improvements in pain, disability and quality of life, were achieved in both groups within the first fortnight, and were maintained at follow-up one year later.
(Different Frequencies of Acupuncture Treatment for Chronic Low Back Pain: An Assessor-Blinded Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, June 2009.)
Researchers in Japan have found acupuncture to be superior to the injection of local anaesthetic for the treatment of lower back pain. Twenty-six patients were randomly allocated to receive either acupuncture or local anaesthetic injection at two to five of the most painful points on the lower back, once per week for four weeks. Both groups experienced pain relief, but acupuncture provided significantly more pain relief at all time points measured, including at two and four weeks after completion of treatment.
The authors of the study conclude that both injection and acupuncture relieved pain, but acupuncture was superior for the immediate and sustained effects, suggesting that it is a useful treatment for lower back pain. The difference in the effects may be attributable to differences in the mechanism of pain suppression.
(Comparison of the Effectiveness of Acupuncture Treatment and Local Anaesthetic Injection for Low Back Pain: A Randomised Controlled Clinical Trial. Acupunct Med Dec 2009.)
Japanese university researchers have examined the effects of acupuncture for lower back pain, and related mood disturbances and medical expenses, among employees of a steel firm.
Acupuncture was given once a week to 72 workers, averaging 53 years in age. After eight weeks of treatment, patients reported less pain and a significant decrease in mood disturbance. There were also significant reductions in the number of visits to hospital for conventional care, and in medical expenses related to lower back pain. The authors say we can expect wide-ranging economic effects if acupuncture treatment were to be introduced into companies.
(Acupuncture Can Reduce Perceived Pain, Mood Disturbances and Medical Expenses Related to Low Back Pain among Factory Workers. Industrial Health, 2008).
An audit of almost 6000 patients who attended a pain clinic in Spain over a nine year period, revealed an average success rate of 79.7%. For the audit, “success” was defined as an improvement of at least 50% in five factors: pain intensity, pain frequency, consumption of painkillers, level of incapacity, and sleep disturbance.
The highest success rate (93%) was achieved in patients with headaches. The authors conclude acupuncture is effective, carries with it no severe adverse events, and considerably reduces the consumption of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.
(Effectiveness of acupuncture and related techniques in treating nononcological pain in primary healthcare-an audit; Acupuncture Med June 2007)