The Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Author: Lam M, Curry P, Galvin R.
1Department of School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, Room 3063 Arts Building, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland. 2School of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 123 St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland.
Conference/Journal: Spine (Phila Pa 1976).
Date published: 2013 Sep 10
Other: Word Count: 308

Study Design. A systematic review (SR) and meta-analysis (MA) of randomised controlled trials (RCTs).Objective. To evaluate the totality of evidence in relation to the effectiveness of acupuncture for non-specific chronic low back pain (NSCLBP).Summary of Background Data. Acupuncture has become a popular alternative for treating clinical symptoms of NSCLBP. A number of RCTs have examined the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of NSCLBP.Methods. A systematic literature search was completed without date or language restrictions up to May 2012. Studies included in the review were RCTs that examined all forms of acupuncture that adhered to the Traditional Acupuncture Theory for treating NSCLBP. Outcome measures included impairment, activity limitation and participation restriction. The methodological quality of the studies was examined using the Cochrane risk of bias tool.Results. Thirty-two studies were included in the SR, of which twenty-five studies presented relevant data for the MA. Acupuncture had a clinically meaningful reduction in levels of self-reported pain [MD = -16.76 (95% CI -33.33, -0.19), p = 0.05, I = 90%] when compared to sham, and improved function [SMD = -0.94 (95% CI -1.41, -0.47), p<0.00, I = 78%] when compared to no treatment immediately post-intervention. Levels of function also clinically improved when acupuncture in-addition to usual-care, or electro-acupuncture was compared to usual-care alone. When acupuncture was compared to medications (NSAIDS, muscle relaxants and analgesics) and usual-care, there were statistically significant differences between the control and the intervention groups but these differences were too small to be of any clinical significance. There was no evidence in support of acupuncture over transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.Conclusion. This SR demonstrates that acupuncture may have a favourable effect on self-reported pain and functional limitations on NSCLBP. However, the results should be interpreted in the context of the limitations identified, particularly in relation to the heterogeneity in the study characteristics and the low methodological quality in many of the included studies.
PMID: 24026151