Sunday, February 13, 2011

Acupuncture For Chronic Low Back Pain

Acupuncture is astrological in origin and not evidence-based so writes the author in a review article in yesterday's Straits Times (page A32, 120211). How is it linked to astrology?  There is "qi" flowing in the human body's loop of meridians interlinking 361 points on the skin. Since the qi flows in a closed loop, you can insert needles at any point away from the painful site to relieve pain if done well.

Why 361 points? The earth takes just three minutes under 24 hours to rotate 360 degrees on its axis while the sun appears to revolve 361 degrees every 24 hours. Hence the link to astrology.

Previously I have read both articles from the Spine Journal and New England Journal of Medicine quoted by the author in which acupuncture was researched to see its efficacy on low back pain. The conclusion from the systematic review (the highest level in research) was that both real and sham acupuncture were more effective than no treatment.  It added that acupuncture may be used as a supplement to other forms of conventional therapy for low back pain.

So here's the deal, real acupuncture does no better than sham acupuncture. It probably is the placebo effect working when patients feel better.


Berman BM, Langevin HM et al. (2010). Acupuncture For Chronic Low Back Pain. N Eng J Med. 363: 454-461.

Yuan J, Purepong N et al (2008). Effectiveness Of Acupuncture For Low Back Pain : A Systematic Review. Spine. 33: E887-E900.

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