Some back pain sufferers go to great lengths to find relief. Although acupuncture may seem like an extreme form of treatment, it is actually fairly common and has reported high levels of success in many cases.

The Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, in conjunction with Northern California Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, performed a study in which a group of 600 adults suffering from chronic lower back pain agreed to receive one of the following forms of treatment:

  • Individualized acupuncture, which uses specific needling sites, number of needles and depth of insertion depending on the patient
  • Standardized acupuncture, which uses 8 points found to be effective in treating low back pain
  • Simulated acupuncture, which mimicked acupuncture using a toothpick
  • Routine care measures, such as medication or physical therapy

The patients who underwent acupuncture treatments—including the simulated one—were more likely to report greater improvements in their ability to function than those who just received routine care.

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Researchers who conducted the study concluded that the specific effects of the acupuncture and acupuncture-like treatments remain unclear. It is unknown whether the treatments provide physiologically important stimulation or represent a placebo effect.

Although the healing powers of acupuncture are not solidly proven, there are some positive effects to the body that are commonly accepted. It can help stimulate the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and cause specific chemicals to be released into the body that can physically and psychologically affect pain. Many people swear by this ancient Chinese method of medicine and it could be an alternative care option to look into if you are not finding relief through other methods.

Additional Resources:

Acupuncture Study--

A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. -- Archives of Internal Medicine