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Does acupuncture treat back pain effectively?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Acupuncture comes from Chinese medicine and is a popular technique for pain relief in the United States today. Scientific data about the effects of acupuncture are still ambiguous, partly because of the difficulty of designing a well-controlled study. Although several studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can be effective in treating back pain, the evidence also suggests that placebo acupuncture works approximately as well. Still, the evidence suggests that both real and 'fake' acupuncture are more effective than standard clinical practice.

In traditional Chinese acupuncture, needles are inserted into specific areas of the body. The needles are then rotated to produce a mildly irritating stimulus. Evidence that acupuncture is effective for treating patients with chronic low back pain is not dependable. Acupuncture has not been sufficiently studied in patients with acute low back pain to permit a conclusion. Acupuncture was found to have risks of complications, including bacterial and viral infections, bleeding, and nerve injury.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.