Why is acupuncture recommended to people who suffer from back pain?

A: The simple answer is that it works!

As our factsheet shows

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/back-pain.html

there is an increasing amount of evidence that acupuncture treatment is very effective at reducing back pain. One of the most impressive results comes from what are known as the GERAC studies, a truly huge study conducted in Germany about ten years ago. The scale meant that many thousands of treatments were examined, and the results, as you can see from the paper cited here

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17893311

were very impressive. Of course, the so-called sham treatment also scored far better than the conventional treatment, but as a medical colleague of ours remarked, a 'placebo' treatment that can outperform conventional treatment by such a huge margin would be worth the investment even when the exact mechanism is not known.

In fact we have always taken issue with the idea of sham acupuncture. There are no places on the body, in our view, which are inert energetically, and what we see in most sham vs verum trials is a comparison between good and indifferent acupuncture. Some of the sham techniques are now becoming more sophisticated, but a great many of the aspects of traditional acupuncture which may well contribute to the therapeutic effect may well be a part of the sham mix.

NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, made ten sessions of acupuncture its recommendation alongside other treatments in the basis of cost effectiveness as much as efficacy, and for many years this has been the case. The sector paper is under review again and we are working our hardest to ensure that this situation does not change.

Back pain is, of course, as old as mankind, so it is not at all surprising that the ancient Chinese had a handle on what might be causing it from a Chinese medicine perspective, and plenty of potential treatments to help to relieve the symptoms.  It remains one of the conditions which brings clients to acupuncture practitioners, and our sense is that it is only because of the good reputation that traditional acupuncture has that the treatment works that word of mouth referral is still so strong.  The Chinese understanding of the flows of energy and the functional relationship of the Organs provide a detailed and elaborate picture of how the healthy back functions, and with that plenty of space for interpretation of how each individual presentation has occurred.


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