Better than drugs: Acupuncture relieves lumbar disk herniation

Chinese researchers found that acupuncture treatment could relieve the severe pain experienced by patients with lumbar disk herniation. They further reported that the pain-relieving effect of the healing art could match the analgesic effect of pharmaceutical drugs.

This systematic review received support from Jinan University. Its findings were published in the science journal Acupuncture in Medicine.

  • Thirty randomized controlled trials were drawn from various electronic databases. The trials covered acupuncture-based treatment of lumbar disk herniation and involved a total of 3,503 participants.
  • The outcome of each trial underwent meta-analysis. Furthermore, the evidence presented by the trail was evaluated using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology.
  • In the meta-analysis, acupuncture demonstrated better total effective rate than the practice of lumbar traction. It similarly outperformed ibuprofen, diclofenac sodium, and meloxicam, which are all pharmaceutical painkiller drugs.
  • In the visual analogue scale (VAS) test that measures the intensity of frequency of symptoms like pain, acupuncture bested lumbar traction and diclofenac sodium. In trials that used the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) methodology, the healing art did much better than lumbar traction.
  • In five separate tests acupuncture was shown to have higher rates of total effectiveness than ibuprofen plus fugui gutong capsule, huoxue zhitong decoction, loxoprofen, mannitol plus dexamethasone, mannitol plus dexamethasone and mecobalamin. Two more trials – one with ibuprofen and the other one involving mannitol plus dexamethasone – showed that acupuncture had the higher VAS scores.

Based on the results of their review, the JNU researchers concluded that acupuncture was better at relieving pain that many commonly-used analgesic drugs and other forms of traditional Chinese medicinal treatment.

Visit to learn more about the traditional Chinese approaches to relieving pain.

Journal Reference:

Tang S, Mo Z, Zhang R. ACUPUNCTURE FOR LUMBAR DISC HERNIATION: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS. Acupuncture in Medicine. 1 March 2018;36(2):62–70. DOI: 10.1136/acupmed-2016-011332.

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