A double-blind randomized electric acupuncture trial found that it could lead to modest improvements in daily performance for people with chronic back pain, although it gave little pain relief.
Acupuncture uses a small electrical current to be passed between needles, a practice that some believe provides additional pain relief compared with conventional acupuncture. The researchers tested this procedure by dividing 121 people with chronic low back pain into two groups. The first time an electric acupuncture, and the second a forged version of the procedure. None of the patients knew in advance that they would be treated. The study, in the JAMA Network Open, consisted of 12 45-minute sessions over six weeks.
The scientists measured pain intensity using a pain scale developed by the National Institutes of Health, which ran a questionnaire two weeks before and two weeks after finishing treatment. There was no statistically significant difference in pain intensity between the treatment group and the placebo group at both time points. But the acupuncture team had modest improvements in disability – they reported improvements in walking comfortably, standing longer, bending or kneeling, and other daily activities.
Lead author Dr Jiang-Ti Kong, an anesthetist at Stanford University School of Medicine, said: “For back pain control, most techniques, even surgery, provide only relief. “For back pain control, it’s best to use a multimodal approach and electroscopic acupuncture can help reduce the disability but clinically significant.”