Despite the positive results presented in the meta-analysis, it appears that the main obstacle to the acceptance of acupuncture as a form of care for various types of low back pain remains a dearth of randomized, controlled trials that use large groups of patients and that measure the effects of acupuncture over a considerable length of time.
Fortunately, it appears that more high-quality studies that measure the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of low back pain continue to be conducted, and that several have been, or are about to be, published in peer-reviewed journals. For example, the researchers alluded to two large randomized, controlled trials of acupuncture for chronic low back pain - one conducted in the United Kingdom, the other in Germany - that were not included in the meta-analysis but have been presented at recent conferences. The main results of those trials appeared to correspond closely with the results derived from the meta-analysis.
As the authors stated in their conclusion:
"More research is needed to evaluate acupuncture's effects on acute low back pain, and the evidence comparing acupuncture to other active treatments is inconclusive. Although current estimates of acupuncture's effects on chronic low back pain are statistically significant and clinically important, they are still somewhat preliminary, and the publication of several large ongoing trials will have a major effect on the evidence."
Cherkin DC, Deyo RA, Sherman KJ, et al. Characteristics of visits to licensed acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and naturopathic physicians. Journal of the American Board of Family Practice 2002;15:463-72.
Manheimer E, White A, Berman B, et al. Meta-analysis: acupuncture for low back pain. Annals of Internal Medicine 2005;142:651-663.
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