Acupuncture for low back pain: results of a pilot study for a randomized controlled trial
Abstract: Objectives: To pilot procedures to be used in a randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for low back pain. Design: Uncontrolled clinical trial. Setting: Primary care and acupuncture clinics in York, England. Subjects: 20 patients with low back pain lasting 1 month or more. Interventions: 1 0 sessions of individualized acupuncture from a traditional acupuncturist. Main outcome measures: Change in Oswestry low back pain disability questionnaire; present pain intensity scale; effect on daily living scale, and SF-36 general health questionnaire at post-treatment and 6 months after the end of treatment. Results: 14 patients completed follow-up. Patients had similar severity scores at baseline to those referred to an NHS outpatient clinic. Post-treatment, there were statistically significant improvements in Oswestry, present pain intensity, effect on daily living and the physical functioning, social functioning, bodily pain, vitality and mental health sub-scales of the SF36. Similar results were found at the six month follow-up. Oswestry scores showed reduced levels of pain at 6 months compared to than at post-treatment, falling approximately 40% from baseline. Conclusions: Though the improvements in pain and quality in life may be due to the natural course of back pain, the promising responses justify further research. The procedures used in the study are appropriate for a randomized controlled trial. Drop-out could be reduced by more careful patient monitoring.