I have mentioned to you before that acupuncture is more effective than conventional treatment for pregnancy back pain, that acupuncture relieves lower back pain long-term and that you don’t even necessarily need the needles, acupressure for back pain alone is more effective than conventional therapies.

Now scientists from Germany have clearly spelled out that acupuncture is almost twice as effective as conventional treatment. And that the effect of treatment lasts for at least 6 months. This news has generated a lot of publicity from media worldwide, but not much in New Zealand.
Interestingly, none of the previous research got so much attention as this.

Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine

Over two-thirds of women will experience some degree of back pain during pregnancy, and nearly a fifth suffer from pelvic pain.

Researchers from Cochrane collaboration reviewed research on various therapies available to relieve back pain during pregnancy. The researchers confirmed that stabilizing exercises and acupuncture were better than usual care alone for relieving pelvic pain. Among women with both back and pelvic pain, there was evidence that acupuncture was more effective than physical therapy.

SOURCE: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.

Hugh MacPherson and scientists at the University of York in England said the benefits of a short course of acupuncture were evident in their study of 241 back pain sufferers.

‘If you offer acupuncture to someone with back pain on average it is expected you are likely to benefit, not just in the short term but particularly in the longer-term of 12 and especially 24 months,’ he said in an interview.

‘That’s a remarkable finding in that normally you would expect the benefit of the treatment to wear off,’ MacPherson added.

The researchers compared the impact of adding 10 acupuncture sessions over three months to the normal treatment for back pain, which includes medication, physiotherapy and exercises.

Patient satisfaction and pain levels were measured and recorded during the two-year study. After three months there was not too much difference between the acupuncture group and patients who had the standard therapy.

Weak evidence of improvement in the acupuncture group was found at 12 months, according to the study published in the British Medical Journal.

By 24 months the difference between the two groups increased.

‘This is the first study to show this growing gap up to the two-year point. It is quite unique in that sense,’ MacPherson added.

In a separate study in which they looked at the cost of acupuncture, the researchers found that the additional money spent on the acupuncture treatment appeared cost-effective.

The cost of treating each patient in the acupuncture group was 460 pounds ($863) during the study, compared to 345 pounds ($647) for patients who received just the standard care.

More on Acupuncture pain relief

Fibromyalgia, is characterized by chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, joint stiffness and sleep disturbance.

No cure is known and available treatments are only partially effective.

According to a research team led by Dr. David Martin, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia patients who received acupuncture reported improvement in fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms.

Acupuncture was also well tolerated with minimal side effects, the researchers said in the June issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The study involved 50 fibromyalgia patients enrolled in a randomized, controlled trial to determine if acupuncture improved their symptoms. Twenty-five in the acupuncture group and 25 in the control group.

In the acupuncture group, total fibromyalgia symptoms were significantly improved compared with the control group during the study period.

Fatigue and anxiety were the most significantly improved symptoms during the follow-up period.

“We found that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptomatic improvement was not restricted to pain relief and was most significant for fatigue and anxiety,” the researchers concluded.

Acupressure Eases Low Back Pain – Forbes.com: Acupressure Eases Low Back Pain
02.20.06, 12:00 AM ET

MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) — Acupresssure — pushing with the fingertips at the same body points used in acupuncture — gave patients better, long-lasting relief for low back pain than conventional physical therapy, Taiwanese researchers report.

‘Acupressure was effective in reducing low back pain in terms of disability, pain scores and functional status,’ doctors at the National Taiwan University reported in the current issue of the British Medical Journal. ‘The benefit was sustained for six months.’

‘Acupressure conferred an 89 percent reduction in physical disability compared with physical therapy,’ the researchers reported. The people who got acupressure also scored better on measures of pain and had fewer days taken off from work or school, the researchers said.

However, they cautioned that the effectiveness of any manipulative therapy such as acupressure ‘is highly dependent on the therapist’s technique and experience.’

Read more on how acupuncture and acupressure releases pain.

Acupuncture effectively relieves chronic low back pain

Acupuncture effectively relieves chronic low back pain, concluded a newly published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The article concluded, however, that: “No evidence suggests that acupuncture is more effective than other active therapies.” Further, the limitations were that the “quantity and quality of the included trials varied.”

Source: Eric Manheimer, MS; Adrian White, MD, BM, BCh; Brian Berman, MD; Kelly Forys, MA; and Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, Meta-Analysis: Acupuncture for Low Back Pain, Ann Int Med, 19 April 2005 | Volume 142 Issue 8 | Pages 651-663.

Background: Low back pain limits activity and is the second most frequent reason for physician visits. Previous research shows widespread use of acupuncture for low back pain.

Purpose: To assess acupuncture’s effectiveness for treating low back pain.

Data Sources: Randomized, controlled trials were identified through searches of MEDLINE, Cochrane Central, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL, CISCOM, and GERA databases through August 2004. Additional data sources included previous reviews and personal contacts with colleagues.

Study Selection: Randomized, controlled trials comparing needle acupuncture with sham acupuncture, other sham treatments, no additional treatment, or another active treatment for patients with low back pain.

Data Extraction: Data were dually extracted for the outcomes of pain, functional status, overall improvement, return to work, and analgesic consumption. In addition, study quality was assessed.

Data Synthesis: The 33 randomized, controlled trials that met inclusion criteria were subgrouped according to acute or chronic pain, style of acupuncture, and type of control group used. The principal measure of effect size was the standardized mean difference, since the trials assessed the same outcome but measured it in various ways. For the primary outcome of short-term relief of chronic pain, the meta-analyses showed that acupuncture is significantly more effective than sham treatment (standardized mean difference, 0.54 [95% CI, 0.35 to 0.73]; 7 trials) and no additional treatment (standardized mean difference, 0.69 [CI, 0.40 to 0.98]; 8 trials). For patients with acute low back pain, data are sparse and inconclusive. Data are also insufficient for drawing conclusions about acupuncture’s short-term effectiveness compared with most other therapies.

Acupuncture and strengthening exercises help relieve pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy and are effective complements to standard treatment, finds a study published online by the BMJ today. Acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercises in this study.

Pelvic girdle pain is a common complaint among pregnant women worldwide.

Read the study here.

You may also be interested to read this article about pregnancy massage.