Researchers conclude that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic low back pain. A randomized, controlled trial was performed at the Dongzhimen Hospital in Beijing, China with a group of 60 participants. Acupuncture effectively decreased patient pain levels and reduced days missed from work due to low back pain.

Another study of 236 patients published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain concludes that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of low back pain. A total of 14 acupuncture treatments were administered over 4 weeks in this randomized trial. The researchers concluded that acupuncture has “beneficial and persistent effectiveness against CLBP (chronic lower back pain).”

Another study investigated the effects of distal acupuncture on low back pain. Distal acupuncture involves acupuncture point selections from areas that are not located in the affected region. For this study, a single acupuncture point, LI4 (Hegu), was chosen. A group of 187 patients with chronic low back pain received 18 treatments at LI4 over a 7 week period in this controlled clinical trial. The patients demonstrated significant relief from low back pain.

LI4 is located on the dorsum of the hand, between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones at the midpoint of the 2nd metacarpal bone, at the high point of the thenar eminence and distal to the transverse carpal ligament. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is applied to this point for the treatment of many pain related conditions including headaches, jaw pain, eye pain and toothaches. Nearby, another well known set of distal points on the hand, Yaotongxue, are often used by licensed acupuncturists for the relief of pain due to acute low back sprain.

A large scale analysis of a multitude of studies finds acupuncture effective for the relief of low back pain. In a meta-analysis of 11 randomized-controlled trials, researchers note that “current evidence is encouraging in that acupuncture may be more effective than medication….” They note that, “Compared with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acupuncture may more effectively improve symptoms of acute LBP (lower back pain).” The study eliminated variables such as the placebo effect by using sham (simulated) acupuncture controls to ensure the validity of the data.

Another study finds acupuncture effective for the treatment of neck and lower back pain. The researchers concur with prior studies demonstrating that acupuncture is effective for pain relief and that acupuncture is sometimes more effective than NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Acupuncture was determined to be effective for both long and short-term pain relief of lumbar disc herniations and cervical disc related pain.