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Acupuncture eases chronic back pain: Study
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21:13, May 13, 2009

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Any type of acupuncture may be effective treatment for chronic back pain, researchers say.

Researchers studied 638 adults who had never received acupuncture before. The patients were divided into four groups -- those who received individualized acupuncture, those who received standardized acupuncture, those who received simulated acupuncture (without going through the skin), and those who received usual care (no acupuncture).

In the simulated acupuncture group, practitioners mimicked needle acupuncture by using a toothpick in a needle guide tube -- poking at traditional pressure points without breaking the skin.

Participants received 10 treatments over seven weeks, at the end of which dysfunction and symptom scores improved equally among the three treatment arms.

Also, medication use in all the acupuncture groups decreased immediately and over the next year. About two-thirds of patients were taking medication, mostly painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). By eight weeks, that had declined to 47 percent in the acupuncture groups and 59 percent in the usual-care group.

But the real surprise was that acupuncture was effective even when the treatment didn't break the skin. The investigators are not exactly sure why people found relief with the simulated acupuncture.

"Historically, some types of acupuncture have used non-penetrating needles. Such treatments may involve physiological effects that make a clinical difference," Karen J. Sherman, Ph.D., M.P.H., co-author of the study was quoted as saying. "Maybe the context in which people get the treatment has effects that are more important than the mechanically-induced effects."

A report of the study, funded by the National Center for complementary and Alternative Medicine -- part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was published in the May 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Source: Xinhua

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