Acupressure relieves low back pain

February 16, 2006

Acupressure (applying pressure with the thumbs or fingertips to the same points on the body stimulated in acupuncture) seems to be more effective in reducing low back pain than physical therapy, finds a study published online by the BMJ today.

Low back pain is a common health problem worldwide. In previous studies, acupressure has been shown to be effective in alleviating various types of pain, but little is known about its effect on low back pain.

Researchers in Taiwan recruited 129 patients with chronic low back pain from a specialist orthopaedic clinic. All patients completed a standard disability questionnaire before being randomly allocated to two treatment groups: 64 patients received six sessions of acupressure and 65 patients received physical therapy. Results were analysed immediately after treatment and again after six months.

The mean disability score after treatment was significantly lower in the acupressure group than in the physical therapy group.

In fact acupressure conferred an 89% reduction in disability compared with physical therapy, after adjusting for pre-treatment disability. This improvement lasted for six months.

Benefit was also greater in the acupressure group for variables such as "leg pain," "pain interferes with normal work," and "days off from work/school."

This study shows that acupressure is more effective in alleviating low back pain than physical therapy in terms of pain scores, functional status, and disability, say the authors. The effect was not only seen in the short term, but lasted for six months.

These results support the conclusion of previous studies. Acupressure may thus be useful for reducing pain and improving body function and level of disability in low back pain, they conclude.
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BMJ

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