Acupuncture, real or fake, helps aching back: study

Mon May 11, 2009 4:28pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Acupuncture brought more relief to people with back pain than standard treatments, whether it was done with a toothpick or a real needle, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that raises new questions about how acupuncture works.

For many patients, that benefit lasted for a year, the team reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Our study shows that you don't need to stick needles into people to get the same effect," said Dr. Daniel Cherkin of Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, who led the study.

"Historically, some types of acupuncture have used non-penetrating needles. Such treatments may involve physiological effects that make a clinical difference," Karen Sherman of Group Health, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

The team, wanted to study the effects of different types of acupuncture in a large, carefully controlled study of 638 patients with chronic low back pain.

They divided patients into several groups. One got seven weeks of standardized acupuncture treatment known to be effective in back pain. Another group got an individually prescribed acupuncture treatment.

A third group was treated using a toothpick in a needle guide tube that did not pierce the skin as regular acupuncture does, but targeting the correct acupuncture "points".

A fourth group just got standard medical treatment, which included medication and physical therapy.   Continued...

<p>A woman receives facial acupuncture at the Beautyworld Japan trade fair in Tokyo May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao</p>