Acupuncture treatment of chronic back pain

A double-blind placebo-controlled trial
      This paper is only available as a PDF. To read, Please Download here.


      Acupuncture treatment of chronic low back pain was studied in a placebo-controlled double-blind crossover trial completed by 77 patients. The patients had significantly increased depression, neuroticism, and hypochondriasis scores. Initial pain levels correlated with state-anxiety, depression, pain duration, and abnormal illness behavior measures, as well as with the intake of psychotropic but not analgesic medication. Overall reduction in pain score was 26 percent for acupuncture and 22 percent for placebo treatment; the difference was not significant (p > 0.6). Analgesic drug intake was reduced to a similar extent in both groups. During the first phase of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had a greater but not significantly different reduction in pain rating scores compared with those receiving placebo (t = 0.52; p > 0.6). This group showed significantly lower pain scores (p < 0.05) in the second phase of the trial while receiving placebo treatment. Overall reduction in individual patient's pain score was best predicted by initial pain severity (r = 0.43; p < 0.001) and psychotropic drug intake (r = 0.37; p < 0.001). None of the variables tested predicted which patients would specifically respond to acupuncture or placebo.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to The American Journal of Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Bonica JJ
        Therapeutic acupuncture in the People's Republic of China: implications for American medicine.
        JAMA. 1974; 228: 1544-1551
        • Matsumoto T
        • Levy B
        • Ambruso V
        Clinical evaluation of acupuncture.
        Am Surg. 1974; 40: 400-405
        • Man SC
        • Baragar FD
        Preliminary clinical study of acupuncture in rheumatoid arthritis.
        J Rheumatol. 1974; 1: 126-129
        • Lee PK
        • Andersen TW
        • Modell JH
        • Saga SA
        Treatment of chronic pain with acupuncture.
        JAMA. 1975; 232: 1133-1135
        • Gaw AC
        • Chang LW
        • Shaw LC
        Efficacy of acupuncture on osteoarthritic pain.
        N Engl J Med. 1975; 293: 375-378
        • Moore ME
        • Berk SN
        Acupuncture for chronic shoulder pain.
        Ann Intern Med. 1976; 84: 381-384
        • Edelist G
        • Gross AE
        • Langer F
        Treatment of low back pain with acupuncture.
        Can Anaesth Soc J. 1976; 23: 303-306
        • Sato N
        • Nakatani Y
        Acupuncture for chronic pain in Japan.
        Adv Neurol. 1974; 4: 813-818
        • Sechzer PH
        • Leung SJ
        Acupuncture: surgical aspects.
        Bull NY Acad Med. 1975; 51: 922-929
        • Holden C
        Pain, dying and the health care system.
        Science. 1979; 203: 984-985
        • Bonica JJ
        Introduction to symposium on pain.
        Arch Surg. 1977; 112: 749
        • Timmermans G
        • Sternbach RA
        Factors of human chronic pain: an analysis of personality and pain reaction variables.
        Science. 1974; 184: 806-808
        • Eysenck HJ
        • Eysenck SBG
        14th ed. Manual of the Eysenck Personality Inventory. University of London Press, London1964
        • Foulds GA
        • Caine TM
        • Creasy MA
        Aspects of extra- and intra-punitive expression in mental illness.
        J Ment Sci. 1960; 106: 599-610
        • Philip AE
        Assessing punitiveness with the Hostility and Direction of Hostility Questionnaire.
        Br J Psychiatry. 1973; 123: 435-439
        • Spielberger CD
        • Gorsuch RL
        • Lushene RE
        14th ed. Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA1970
        • Zung WWK
        A self-rating depression scale.
        Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1965; 12: 63-70
        • Pilowsky I
        • Spence ND
        Patterns of illness behaviour in patients with intractable pain.
        J Psychosom Res. 1975; 19: 279-287
        • Pilowsky I
        Dimensions of hypochondriasis.
        Br J Psychiatry. 1967; 113: 89-93
        • Eysenck HJ
        States of high suggestibility and the neuroses.
        Am J Psychol. 1944; 57: 406-411
        • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
        Joint Motion: method of measuring and recording.
        The British Orthopaedic Association, Edinburgh1966
        • Woodforde JM
        • Merskey H
        Some relationships between subjective measures of pain.
        J Psychosom Res. 1972; 16: 173-178
        • Melzack R
        The McGill Pain Questionnaire: major properties and scoring methods.
        Pain. 1975; 1: 277-299
        • The Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine
        An outline of Chinese acupuncture.
        Oxford University Press, London1975
        • Mendelson G
        Acupuncture analgesia: I. Review of clinical studies.
        Aust NZ J Med. 1977; 7: 642-648
        • Fleiss JL
        Statistical methods for rates and proportions.
        John Wiley & Sons, New York1973
        • Man PL
        • Chen CH
        Acupuncture analgesia: theory and potential clinical application.
        Current Therapeutics. 1975; 13: 95-107
        • Department of Physiology of Shanghai First Medical College
        • Acupuncture Anaesthesia Co-ordinating Group of Hua Shan Hospital, Shanghai
        Acupuncture sensation and electromyogram of the needled point in patients with nervous diseases.
        Chin Med J. 1973; (October): 137
        • Melzack R
        • Stillwell DM
        • Fox EJ
        Trigger points and acupuncture points for pain: correlations and implications.
        Pain. 1977; 3: 3-23
        • Lee M
        • Carmon A
        • Sarne Y
        • Dotan Y
        Evaluation of the effects of acupuncture on subjective and objective pain measures: comparison of SDT and evoked potentials.
        Pain Abstracts. 1978; 1: 183
        • Freyd M
        The graphic rating scale.
        J Educ Psychol. 1923; 14: 83-102
        • Folstein MF
        • Luria R
        Reliability, validity and clinical application of the visual analogue mood scale.
        Psychol Med. 1973; 3: 479-486
        • Devine JE
        • Rook J
        • Glad WR
        • Keeler E
        • Supernau E
        • Walker N
        Chronic pain: the effect of treatment in a multidisciplinary pain clinic on specific medication.
        Pain Abstracts. 1978; 1: 139
        • Crown S
        • Crown JM
        Personality in early rheumatoid arthritis.
        J Psychosom Res. 1973; 17: 189-196
        • Sternbach RA
        • Timmermans G
        Personality changes associated with reduction of pain.
        Pain. 1975; 1: 177-181
        • Pilowsky I
        • Spence ND
        Illness behaviour syndromes associated with intractable pain.
        Pain. 1976; 2: 61-71
        • Henryk-Gutt R
        • Linford Rees W
        Psychological aspects of migraine.
        J Psychosom Res. 1973; 17: 141-153
        • Le Shan L
        The world of the patient in severe pain of long duration.
        J Chronic Dis. 1964; 17: 119-126
        • Beecher HK
        The powerful placebo.
        JAMA. 1955; 159: 1602-1606
        • Malzack R
        Prolonged relief of pain by brief, intense transcutaneous stimulation.
        Pain. 1975; 1: 357-373
        • Moertel CG
        • Taylor WF
        • Roth A
        • Tyce FAJ
        Who responds to sugar pills?.
        in: 14th ed. Mayo Clin Proc. 51. 1976: 96-100
        • Sjolund B
        • Terenius L
        • Eriksson M
        Increased cerebrospinal fluid levels of endorphins after electro-acupuncture.
        Acta Physiol Scand. 1977; 100: 382-384
        • Mayer DJ
        Pain inhibition by electrical brain stimulation: comparison to morphine.
        Neurosci Res Program Bull. 1975; 13: 94-100