Acupuncture Research Summary of “Acupuncture for low back pain: an overview of systematic reviews”

Acupuncture Lower Back Pain Research

This review article aims to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for low back pain (LBP) by examining various systematic reviews. Here’s a summary of the research:


The primary goal of the study was to critically appraise evidence from systematic reviews on the effectiveness of acupuncture for LBP. The objective was to synthesize findings from multiple reviews to comprehensively evaluate acupuncture’s therapeutic value for LBP.


The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search in seven databases up to February 2014. They included systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed acupuncture for acute and chronic LBP. The reviews were evaluated for their internal and external validity, and their outcomes were synthesized narratively.


A total of 16 systematic reviews were included in the final analysis. The methodological quality of these reviews was generally low, and the external validity was weak. The main findings were:

Acute LBP:

The evidence regarding the effectiveness of acupuncture compared to sham acupuncture for pain relief was inconsistent.
Acupuncture showed similar effects to sham acupuncture in improving function.
Chronic LBP:

Evidence consistently showed that acupuncture provides short-term clinically relevant benefits for pain relief and functional improvement compared to no treatment or conventional interventions.
Acupuncture as an adjunct to conventional therapy was also found to be beneficial.
The review concludes that despite the methodological limitations, acupuncture appears to provide short-term improvements in pain and function for chronic LBP. However, for acute LBP, the effectiveness compared to sham acupuncture remains inconsistent. The study emphasises the need to improve the quality of systematic reviews and RCTs in this area to obtain more definitive conclusions.

Implications for Practice

The findings suggest that acupuncture can be considered as a treatment option for chronic LBP, either alone or in combination with conventional therapies. For acute LBP, more high-quality research is needed to establish its effectiveness.


Future research should focus on enhancing the internal and external validity of studies on acupuncture for LBP. This includes better methodological designs, larger sample sizes, and more rigorous reporting standards to provide clearer guidance for clinical practice.


The study references several clinical guidelines and previous systematic reviews, emphasizing the mixed conclusions from various guidelines on the use of acupuncture for chronic LBP. It also highlights the global prevalence of LBP and the economic burden it imposes, thereby underscoring the significance of effective treatment options.

Summary of Positive Findings

Acupuncture is more effective than no treatment for chronic LBP in terms of pain relief and functional improvement.
Acupuncture in addition to conventional therapy shows greater benefits than conventional therapy alone for chronic LBP.
Critical Appraisal
The review found that the majority of included systematic reviews were of low methodological quality. This limits the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn. Nonetheless, the consistent positive findings for chronic LBP provide a basis for recommending acupuncture as a beneficial treatment.

This comprehensive review highlights the potential benefits of acupuncture for chronic lower back pain and underscores the need for higher quality research to validate these findings further.



Liu L, Skinner M, McDonough S, Mabire L, Baxter GD. Acupuncture for low back pain: an overview of systematic reviews. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:328196. doi: 10.1155/2015/328196. Epub 2015 Mar 4. PMID: 25821485; PMCID: PMC4364128

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