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Acupuncture Eases Back Pain More Than Usual Care

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Key Points

  • Almost half the patients treated with acupuncture needles felt relief that lasted months. In contrast, only about a quarter of the patients receiving medications and other Western medical treatments felt better.

  • “Acupuncture represents a highly promising and effective treatment option for chronic back pain,” study co-author Dr. Heinz Endres of Ruhr University Bochum in Bochum, Germany, said in an e-mail. “Patients experienced not only reduced pain intensity, but also reported improvements in the disability that often results from back pain and therefore in their quality of life.”

  • “We don’t understand the mechanisms of these so-called alternative treatments, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work,” said Dr. James Young of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the research. Young often treats low back pain with acupuncture, combined with exercises and stretches.

  • Funding came from German health insurance companies, and the findings already have led to more coverage in Germany of acupuncture.
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