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October 2021

J Altern Complement Med. 1997 Spring; 3(1): 55-76.

A review of research on acupuncture for the treatment of lumbar disk protrusions and associated neurological symptomatology.

Longworth W, McCarthy PW.

East Finchley Clinic, London, England.

The association between acupuncture (AP) and pain relief is so strong that it has tended to obscure any other potentially significant clinical results. This review indicates the wealth of data from around the world on various aspects of AP treatment for low back syndromes related to lumbar intervertebral disk prolapse (PID). Although plentiful, the research is variable in quality, especially with respect to design, consistency, and follow-up. Even so, the large number of patients who appear to have been treated successfully (i.e., given a high degree of symptomatic relief) supports a potential role for AP. This is further supported by studies on patients who had previously had unsuccessful treatment with conservative methods. The role envisaged for AP, in cases of lumbar PID and sciatica, is at least of a supplementary therapy capable of reducing the requirement of more invasive forms of treatment. No such role is envisaged in cases of cauda equina compression where surgery must remain the treatment of choice. AP should be explored more fully, using appropriate designs, so that this discipline may achieve its full therapeutic potential in the West.

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