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Home > Newsletters > November 2004 >

Recent Research


Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Chronic Low Back Pain: What Treatments are Patients Willing to Try?

  Acupuncture Compared with Massage and “Sham” Laser
  Acupuncture for Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain
  Electroacupuncture versus Diclofenac for Osteoarthritis of
  the Knee

Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Chronic Low Back Pain: What Treatments are Patients Willing to Try?

Sherman K, et al. Center for Health Studies, Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, Washington 98101, USA , et al

Even though back pain is the most common reason patients use complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies, very little is known about the willingness of back pain patients to try these therapies. A study was done to determine if back pain patients are willing to try acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, meditation, and t'ai chi and to learn about their knowledge of, experience with, and perceptions about each of these therapies. Except for chiropractic, knowledge about these therapies was low. Chiropractic and massage had been used by the largest fractions of respondents (54% and 38%, respectively), mostly for back pain (45% and 24%, respectively). Among prior users of specific CAM therapies for back pain, massage was rated most helpful. Users of chiropractic reported treatment-related "significant discomfort, pain or harm" more often (23%) than users of other therapies (5–16%). Respondents expected massage would be most helpful (median of 7 on a 0 to 10 scale) and meditation least helpful (median of 3) in relieving their current pain. Most respondents indicated they would be "very likely" to try acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic for their back pain if they did not have to pay out of pocket and their physician thought it was a reasonable treatment option.

 Acupuncture Compared with Massage and “Sham” Laser
  Acupuncture for Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain


Dominik Irnich, et al. Department of Anaesthesiology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, 81377 Munich, Germany, et al

In order to compare the efficacy of acupuncture and conventional massage for the treatment of chronic neck pain, a randomized, placebo controlled trial was done with 177 patients aged 18-85 years old. The patients were randomly given five treatments over three weeks with acupuncture (56), massage (60), or “sham” laser acupuncture (61).

One week after five treatments the acupuncture group showed a significantly greater improvement in motion related pain compared with massage (difference 24.22 (95% confidence interval 16.5 to 31.9), P=0.0052) but not compared with sham laser (17.28 (10.0 to 24.6), P=0.327). Differences between acupuncture and massage or sham laser were greater in the subgroup who had had pain for longer than five years (n=75) and in patients with myofascial pain syndrome (n=129). The acupuncture group had the best results in most secondary outcome measures. There were no differences in patients' beliefs in treatment.

The trial concluded that acupuncture is an effective short-term treatment for chronic neck pain, but there is not enough evidence for long-term relief after five treatments. Furthermore, compared with sham laser acupuncture and massage, needle acupuncture increases mobility and relieves pain related to motion in patients with chronic neck pain. Acupuncture was far more effective than massage, but differences were not always significant compared with sham laser acupuncture. Acupuncture was the best treatment for patients with the myofascial syndrome and those who had had pain for longer than five years

 Electroacupuncture versus Diclofenac for Osteoarthritis of
  the Knee

Chaichan Sangdee, et al. Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand., et al

In a study to compare the efficacy of electroacupuncture (EA), diclofenac and their combination in symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, a randomized, single blind, placebo controlled trial was performed with 193 OA patients. The 193 patients were randomly separated into four groups: placebo, diclofenac, EA and combined (diclofenac plus EA). Paracetamol tablets were prescribed as a rescue analgesic during the study. 186 patients completed the study and the results showed that EA is significantly more effective than placebo and diclofenac in the symptomatic treatment of OA of the knee in some circumstances. However, the combination of EA and diclofenac treatment was no more effective than EA treatment alone.

This Month's Articles

November 2004
Volume 2, Number 7

The Difficult Problem of Mold Infestation

Frequently Asked Questions About TCM Diet Therapy

Recent Research

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