ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Sea Worm Inspires Novel Bone Glue
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
CANCER
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Undoing the 'Big Baby' Trend
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
To Feel Better, Low-Fat Diet May Be Best
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Compound in Berries May Lessen Sun Damage
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives
Disinfectants Can Boost Bacteria's Resistance to Treatment
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
EYE CARE, VISION
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
FITNESS
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Less Education May Mean Poorer Health
Healthy Eating While On Vacation
Proven Strategies for Avoiding Colds and the Flu
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
MEN'S HEALTH
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Add your Article

Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Any kind of acupuncture, whether it pierced the skin or not, eased chronic lower back pain in a group of adult patients.

"All were superior to usual care," said Daniel Cherkin, lead author of a report published in the May 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic back pain. People receiving acupuncture are more likely to get better."

But the unusual finding that non-penetrating acupuncture did as well as acupuncture that used standard needles will raise questions about how this works, added Cherkin, who is a senior investigator with the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle.

Chronic back pain is a chronic health issue in the United States, and is the top reason why patients go to acupuncturists, often when traditional therapies disappoint.

Although there have been previous studies on whether acupuncture represents a viable treatment option, "the evidence of the value of acupuncture in general is very murky because the quality of the research is not very good," Cherkin said.

This trial, the largest randomized one of its kind, was funded by the National Center for complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

More than 600 adults with chronic lower back pain were randomized to one of four study arms: individualized acupuncture, standardized acupuncture, simulated acupuncture (non-penetrating) or "usual care."

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.

There were no cost savings for the health plan (treatments were estimated to cost from $600 to $1,200).

But the real surprise was that acupuncture was effective even when the treatment didn't break the skin. "It's not necessary to penetrate the skin. There's no advantage to tailoring and no advantage to using a needle. Why?" Cherkin said. "It throws open the question of how does this work."

There are no answers to that question yet, but some theories persist. It's possible that the "superficial" acupuncture still kicks off a cascade of physiological processes that result in relief, the authors wrote. Or the benefit may come from "nonspecific effects such as therapist conviction [or] patient enthusiasm."

Some previous studies have found similar physiological responses from both types of acupuncture.

Janet Konefal, a licensed acupuncturist and assistant dean for complementary and integrative medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said she was not surprised that non-puncture stimulation had equal effects.

"You can stimulate a point with pressure, needle, electricity, even now with laser light and different frequencies of laser light," she said. "'Pecking' on a point is a Japanese technique for stimulation. You might use that with someone who is older or weak in their constitution. That could explain why two different methods of stimulation work equally well."

Acupuncture of all types is "well on its way to the mainstream," Konefal said. "When we understand that different stimulations may be effective rather than doing deep-needle stimulation which, for some people when in pain can be painful, we can now use laser or light needling or even just electric stimulation on the points; I think that part is great."

And, Cherkin pointed out, "just because you don't understand how it works doesn't mean it doesn't work. It could be worthwhile to pursue it."

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more on acupuncture.

Copyright 2009 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved. External Links Disclaimer Logo

HealthDayNews articles are derived from various sources and do not reflect federal policy. healthfinder.gov does not endorse opinions, products, or services that may appear in news stories. For more information on health topics in the news, visit Health News on healthfinder.gov.