Acupuncture for low-back pain

  • Review
  • Intervention

Authors

  • MW van Tulder,

    Associate Professor Health Technology Assessment, Corresponding author
    1. VU University Medical Centre, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS
    • van MW Tulder, Associate Professor Health Technology Assessment, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Centre, van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam, 1081 BT, NETHERLANDS. mw.vantulder@vumc.nl.

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  • DC Cherkin,

  • B Berman,

  • L Lao,

  • BW Koes


Abstract

Background

Although low back pain is usually a self-limiting and benign disease that tends to improve spontaneously over time, a large variety of therapeutic interventions are available for the treatment of low back pain.

Objectives

The objective of this review was to assess the effects of acupuncture for the treatment of non-specific low back pain.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field trials register, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (1997, issue 1), Medline (1966 - 1996), Embase (1988 - 1996), Science Citation Index and reference lists of articles.

Selection criteria

Randomised trials of all types of acupuncture treatment that involves needling for subjects with non-specific low back pain.

Data collection and analysis

Two reviewers blinded with respect to authors, institution and journal independently assessed trial quality and extracted data.

Main results

Eleven trials were included. The methodological quality was low. Only two trials were of high quality. Three trials compared acupuncture to no treatment, which were of low methodological quality and provide conflicting evidence. There was moderate evidence from two trials that acupuncture is not more effective than trigger point injection or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). There was limited evidence from eight trials that acupuncture is not more effective than placebo or sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic low back pain.

Reviewers' conclusions

The evidence summarised in this systematic review does not indicate that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of back pain.

Plain language summary

Synopsis

Synopsis pending.

Ancillary