Americans spend a great deal of money dealing with back pain. It has been estimated that over $37 billion is spent annually for the care of back pain along with another $19.8 billion incurred from losses in production and work hours.
A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (May, 2009) looked at the role of acupuncture therapy in the treatment of back pain. Daniel C. Cherkin and colleagues divided a group of six hundred and thirty eight patients suffering from back pain into four treatment groups over an eight week period. The individualized acupuncture group received traditional acupuncture treatment. A standardized acupuncture therapy group received a fixed set of acupuncture treatments. A simulated acupuncture group received stimulation at the acupuncture points using a toothpick inside a guide tube; points were stimulated at 10′ and 20′ with the toothpicks. The fourth group, usual care, received care of their choice (mostly medications and physical therapy).
At the eight week follow-up, 60% of the patients receiving all forms of treatment on acupuncture points experienced clinically significant improvement compared to 39% of those receiving usual care. The greater improvement in the acupuncture groups continued until the end of the study, fifty two weeks later. The researchers concluded that different methods of acupuncture point stimulation appear to elicit positive responses. They suggested that further research is needed to clarify the mechanisms of action evoking these responses.