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Acupuncture & Research
To our knowledge, verum acupuncture has never been directly compared with sham acupuncture and guideline-based conventional therapy in patients with chronic low back pain.
A patient- and observer-blinded randomized controlled trial conducted in Germany involving 340 outpatient practices, including 1162 patients aged 18 to 86 years (mean +/- SD age, 50 +/- 15 years) with a history of chronic low back pain for a mean of 8 years. Patients underwent ten 30-minute sessions, generally 2 sessions per week, of verum acupuncture (n = 387) according to principles of traditional Chinese medicine; sham acupuncture (n = 387) consisting of superficial needling at nonacupuncture points; or conventional therapy, a combination of drugs, physical therapy, and exercise (n = 388). Five additional sessions were offered to patients who had a partial response to treatment (10%-50% reduction in pain intensity). Primary outcome was response after 6 months, defined as 33% improvement or better on 3 pain-related items on the Von Korff Chronic Pain Grade Scale questionnaire or 12% improvement or better on the back-specific Hanover Functional Ability Questionnaire. Patients who were unblinded or had recourse to other than permitted concomitant therapies during follow-up were classified as nonresponders regardless of symptom improvement.
At 6 months, response rate was 47.6% in the verum acupuncture group, 44.2% in the sham acupuncture group, and 27.4% in the conventional therapy group. Differences among groups were as follows: verum vs sham, 3.4% (95% confidence interval, -3.7% to 10.3%; P = .39); verum vs conventional therapy, 20.2% (95% confidence interval, 13.4% to 26.7%; P < .001); and sham vs conventional therapy, 16.8% (95% confidence interval, 10.1% to 23.4%; P < .001.
Low back pain improved after acupuncture treatment for at least 6 months. Effectiveness of acupuncture, either verum or sham, was almost twice that of conventional therapy.
Department of Anaesthetics, University of Heidelberg, Germany. email@example.com
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture is a suitable treatment for complex chronic diseases such as bronchial asthma. In a randomized, controlled study we investigated immunologic effects of Chinese acupuncture on patients with allergic asthma.
PATIENTS AND METHODS:
The effects of acupuncture treatment given according to the principles of TCM (TCM group, n = 20) were compared with those of acupuncture treatment using points not specific for asthma (control group, n = 18). All patients were treated 12 times for 30 minutes over a time period of 4 weeks. Patients' general well-being and several peripheral blood parameters (eosinophils, lymphocyte subpopulations, cytokines, in vitro lymphocyte proliferation) were determined before and after acupuncture treatment.
In the TCM group, significantly more patients indicated an improvement in general well-being (79% in the TCM group versus 47% in the control group; p = 0.049) after acupuncture treatment. The following changes were found in the TCM group: within the lymphocyte subpopulations the CD3+ cells (p = 0.005) and CD4+ cells (p = 0.014) increased significantly. There were also significant changes in cytokine concentrations: interleukin (IL)-6 (p = 0.026) and IL-10 (p = 0.001) decreased whereas IL-8 (p = 0.050) rose significantly. Additionally, the in vitro lymphocyte proliferation rate increased significantly (p = 0.035) while the number of eosinophils decreased from 4.4% to 3.3% after acupuncture (p > 0.05). The control group, however, showed no significant changes apart from an increase in the CD4+ cells (p = 0.012).
The results imply that asthma patients benefit from acupuncture treatment given in addition to conventional therapy. Furthermore, acupuncture performed in accordance with the principles of TCM showed significant immune-modulating effects.
Joseph F. Audette, MA, MD and Angela H. Ryan, MD
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, 125 Nashua Street, Boston, MA 02114
He, Tian, Wen Zhu, Si-Qi Du, Jing-Wen Yang, Fang Li, Bo-Feng Yang, Guang-Xia Shi, and Cun-Zhi Liu. "Neural mechanisms of acupuncture as revealed by fMRI studies."