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Acupuncture in Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain

A Randomized Controlled Trial

Benno Brinkhaus, MD; Claudia M. Witt, MD; Susanne Jena, MSc; Klaus Linde, MD; Andrea Streng, PhD; Stefan Wagenpfeil, PhD; Dominik Irnich, MD; Heinz-Ulrich Walther, MD; Dieter Melchart, MD; Stefan N. Willich, MD, MPH

Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:450-457.

Background: Acupuncture is widely used by patients with low back pain, although its effectiveness is unclear. We investigated the efficacy of acupuncture compared with minimal acupuncture and with no acupuncture in patients with chronic low back pain.

Methods: Patients were randomized to treatment with acupuncture, minimal acupuncture (superficial needling at nonacupuncture points), or a waiting list control. Acupuncture and minimal acupuncture were administered by specialized acupuncture physicians in 30 outpatient centers, and consisted of 12 sessions per patient over 8 weeks. Patients completed standardized questionnaires at baseline and at 8, 26, and 52 weeks after randomization. The primary outcome variable was the change in low back pain intensity from baseline to the end of week 8, as determined on a visual analog scale (range, 0-100 mm).

Results: A total of 298 patients (67.8% female; mean ± SD age, 59 ± 9 years) were included. Between baseline and week 8, pain intensity decreased by a mean ± SD of 28.7 ± 30.3 mm in the acupuncture group, 23.6 ± 31.0 mm in the minimal acupuncture group, and 6.9 ± 22.0 mm in the waiting list group. The difference for the acupuncture vs minimal acupuncture group was 5.1 mm (95% confidence interval, –3.7 to 13.9 mm; P = .26), and the difference for the acupuncture vs waiting list group was 21.7 mm (95% confidence interval, 13.9-30.0 mm; P<.001). Also, at 26 (P=.96) and 52 (P=.61) weeks, pain did not differ significantly between the acupuncture and the minimal acupuncture groups.

Conclusion: Acupuncture was more effective in improving pain than no acupuncture treatment in patients with chronic low back pain, whereas there were no significant differences between acupuncture and minimal acupuncture.

Author Affiliations: Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics (Drs Brinkhaus, Witt, Linde, and Willich and Ms Jena) and Center for Musculo-skeletal Surgery (Dr Walther), Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany; Center for Complementary Medicine Research, Department of Internal Medicine II (Drs Linde, Streng, and Melchart) and Institute of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology (Dr Wagenpfeil), Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany; Department of Anesthesiology, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich (Dr Irnich); and Division of Complementary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland (Dr Melchart).


Acupuncture for shoulder pain, frozen shoulder

Authors: Wen-Lung Wu, M.S., L.Ac.

Jo-Mei Chiang, B.S., L.Ac.


A.D. it was severe pain in my left shoulder. I was unable to reach my back or the top of my head. I could not walk a city block before the gentle movement of walking caused a burning pain.


I was 67 year old when the trouble began. I could think of nothing I had done to cause the problem… but here it was severe pain in my left shoulder. I was unable to reach my back or the top of my head. I could not walk a city block before the gentle movement of walking caused a burning pain. Sleep was difficult. After a short time of lying down the pain would come and there was no position I could take that before long the nagging pain would return and wake me.

The Doctor said something that meant “frozen shoulder” and ordered physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. I also sought out an excellent deep muscle masseuse and doctored myself with aspirin and turmeric (an anti-inflammatory herb). Nothing helped, and most the time after physical treatment the pain was worse.

Finally a light went off…I would call Doctor Wu and see if he could help.One of the many things I like about Doctor Wu is that he answers his own phone and you get answers to your questions right a way or he will say “Come in now”… wonderful words to anyone in pain or sick.

He told me it would take a while for the shoulder to heal. …And he was right…but with the use of acupuncture and a special blend of Chinese herbs I could feel the pain subsiding after each visit and now I have full mobility of my arm/ shoulder. Later my right arm took its turn… but there wasn’t the pain and discomfort I had had with my left shoulder as I started with acupuncture and herbs right away and now I have full mobility of both arms/ shoulders.
I can’t thank Dr. Wu enough for providing the climate with acupuncture, herbs and encouragement for my shoulders to heal.

From M.C. lower back and associated shoulder pain for some ten years.

After suffering back pain in a concentrated area of my lower back and associated shoulder pain for some ten years, I decided to take my father’s advice & give acupuncture a try.

After only one treatment with Dr Wu, I experienced considerable relief in my shoulder, & following my second visit, my lower back has now also improved significantly.

Without prompting, Dr Wu also correctly diagnosed that I was suffering a little from insomnia (promise there were no big black bags to give me away!), & thus also prescribed me some herbs.

Needless to say, I am most impressed with the treatment administered by Dr. Wen-Lung Wu, & have no hesitation in recommending his services. Houston, January, 2007