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The effectiveness of acupuncture in the management of acute and chronic low back pain: a systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration Back Review Group

PainSci » bibliography » van Tulder et al 1999
Tags: acupuncture, back pain, mind, controversy, debunkery, energy work, pain problems, spine

Two articles on PainSci cite van Tulder 1999: 1. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks

PainSci notes on van Tulder 1999:

In 2000, this The Cochrane Collaboration review of the evidence “did not clearly indicate that acupuncture is effective in the management of back pain” and that “ … there clearly is a need for more high-quality randomized controlled trials.” In the years since then, that higher-quality research has had extremely discouraging results.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of acupuncture for the management of nonspecific low back pain.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of therapy, but little is known about the effectiveness of acupuncture for low back pain.

METHODS: Randomized controlled trials were done to assess the effectiveness of all types of acupuncture treatment, which involves needling for subjects with nonspecific low back pain. Two reviewers blinded with respect to authors, institution, and journal independently assessed the methodologic quality of the studies. Because data were statistically and clinically too heterogeneous, a qualitative review was performed. The evidence was classified into four levels: strong, moderate, limited, or no evidence.

RESULTS: Eleven randomized controlled trials were included. Overall, the methodologic quality was low. Only two studies met the preset "high quality" level for this review. No study clearly evaluated acupuncture for acute low back pain. The results indicate that there was no evidence showing acupuncture to be more effective than no treatment. There was moderate evidence indicating that acupuncture is not more effective than trigger-point injection or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and there was limited evidence that acupuncture is not more effective than placebo or sham acupuncture for the management of chronic low back pain.

CONCLUSIONS: Because this systematic review did not clearly indicate that acupuncture is effective in the management of back pain, the authors would not recommend acupuncture as a regular treatment for patients with low back pain. There clearly is a need for more high-quality randomized controlled trials.

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