2008 Volume 71 Issue 4 Pages 211-220
The purpose of this trial was to compare the cumulative and sustained effect of repeated acupuncture treatment and repeated local injection of anesthesia for localized low back pain.
A computer program was used to randomly allocate 26 patients with low back pain to either an acupuncture group (n=13) or a local injection group (n=13). Patients in both groups received treatment at the most painful points (from 2 to 5 points) once a week for a total of 4 weeks. For the acupuncture treatment, a 0.18mm diameter stainless steel needle was inserted to a depth of 10 to 20mm and then manual stimulation using the sparrow pecking method (1Hz) was given. For the local injection, injection needle (25G, 0.5mm in diameter) was inserted to a depth of 10 to 20mm before injection of the anesthetic (a mixture of local anesthetic and neurotropin). The visual analog scale (VAS: 100mm) was used to measure subjective pain intensity before and directly after the first treatment, before subsequent treatments, and at two and four weeks after completion of the treatment. The Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RDQ) and Pain Disability Assessment Scale (PDAS) were also used to evaluate Quality of Life (QOL) of the subject at before the first treatment, at the time of completion of treatment, and at two and four weeks after the completion of treatment.
There was a significant difference (p=0.0016) in changes in the VAS scores between two groups, with more favorable results in the acupuncture group than in the local injection group. Calculation of the degree of change from the initial scores indicated that acupuncture group showed significantly better results than those in the local injection group at directly after the first treatment (p=0.0348), and there was a significant cumulative effect (at the end of treatment: p=0.0076) and sustained effect (two weeks after treatment: p=0.0096, four weeks after treatment: p=0.0128). Similarly, RDQ and PDAS were also better in the acupuncture group compared to the local injection group.
Both local injection and acupuncture reduced low back pain. The superior effect of acupuncture directly after treatment and its superior cumulative and sustained effect, indicate that it could be an effective treatment for low back pain. The reason for the disparity between the effects could be due to differences in the mechanisms of pain suppression.