New research confirms that acupuncture reduces lower back pain. Researchers conclude that acupuncture reduces pain, lowers absenteeism from work and prevents relapses. The researchers also conclude that adding special acupuncture points, called confluent points, adjusted for the time of day that acupuncture treatments are administered significantly enhances clinical outcomes for patients with chronic lower back pain.
In related research, a new study finds acupuncture combined with massage is more effective for treating lumbar disc herniations than coenzyme B12 injections combined with physiotherapy. The acupuncture group achieved an overall success rate of 96.7% and the injection therapy group had an 80.0% success rate. A lumbar disc herniation is when a vertebral disc’s soft center extrudes through a rupture or tear in the outer fibrous ring. This may lead to pain, numbness, weakness and impaired range of motion.
A related statistical analysis of many studies confirms that acupuncture is effective for the relief of lower back pain. A meta-analysis of 11 controlled trials concludes that “current evidence is encouraging in that acupuncture may be more effective than medication….” The quality of the study was high in that researchers examined placebo-sham, randomized-controlled investigations to ensure objectivity. The research team concluded, “Compared with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acupuncture may more effectively improve symptoms of acute LBP (lower back pain).”
These studies come at a time when German researchers have discovered that an endogenous chemical responsible for pain reduction is stimulated by acupuncture needling. The anti-pain chemical is CXCL10. Acupuncture stimulates its expression which then reduces pain and inflammation by activating endogenous opioids. The researchers add that acupuncture causes long-term pain reduction citing that acupuncture “elicited long-term antinociception.” Antinociception is a reduction in sensitivity to pain through pain receptors. The researchers found that CXCL10 regulates “opioid-containing macrophages as (a) key regulator of electroacupuncture-induced antinociception.”