Electro-Acupuncture Can Provide Pain Relief from Chronic Low Back Pain

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Main Findings:

1.       Compared to sham control, real electro-acupuncture led to greater pain reduction, but just missed reaching statistical significance (p=0.06).

2.       However, compared to sham control, real electro-acupuncture led to statistically and clinically significant improvement in back-related disability (p=0.01).

3.       Positive coping-strategies, and non-white race were associated with greater treatment response to real electro-acupuncture. 

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

1.       Electro-acupuncture can lead to clinically and statistically significant improvement in functional impairment related to chronic low back pain. After removing a single outlier, a statistically significant treatment effect in pain reduction is also seen.

2.       However, electro-acupuncture does not work for everyone. Individuals who are non-white, and who gravitate toward positive coping strategies, tend to respond better to electro-acupuncture than the rest.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

1.       To investigate if electro-acupuncture works better than manual acupuncture, a 3-arm study will likely be needed, where patients are randomized to electro-acupuncture, manual acupuncture, and sham control.

2.       It would be interesting to see if combing interventions which improve coping strategies can lead to increased response to electro-acupuncture, as suggested by our study.

3.       Our study was conducted in Bay Area, it would be important to replicate our findings, particularly the relationship between non-white race and clinical outcome in other areas, where the minority population is not primarily Asian.  

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

·       If you have chronic low back pain and is over 65 years old, you should know that acupuncture treatment for your low back pain IS covered by MediCare in the United States. This decision was made by the US Health and Human Services in Jan, 2020.

·       This study was conducted with support from National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Grant (K23 AT008477) and by Dr. and Mrs. Gerald & Harriet Berner. We would also like to acknowledge oversight and support from Drs. Karen Parker, Remy Coeytaux and Manisha Desai.


 Effect of Electroacupuncture vs Sham Treatment on Change in Pain Severity Among Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain
JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(10):e2022787. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.22787

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Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by PainRelief.com