Author(s): Itoh K, Hirota S, Kitakoji H, Katsumi Y
INTRODUCTION: There is some evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture, but it remains unclear whether trigger point acupuncture is effective. Our objective was to evaluate the effects of trigger point acupuncture on pain and quality of life in chronic low back pain patients compared with sham acupuncture. METHODS: Twenty-six consecutive out-patients (17 women, 9 men; age range: 65-91 years) from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Meiji University of Oriental Medicine, with non-radiating low back pain for at least six months and normal neurological examination, were randomised to two groups. Each group received one phase of trigger point acupuncture and one of sham acupuncture with a three week washout period between them, over 12 weeks. Group A (n = 13) received trigger point acupuncture in the first phase and sham acupuncture in the second. Group B (n = 13) received the same interventions in the reverse order. Outcome measures were pain intensity (visual analogue scale, VAS) and Roland Morris Questionnaire. RESULTS: Nineteen patients were included in the analysis. At the end of the first treatment phase, group A receiving trigger point acupuncture scored significantly lower VAS (P < 0.001) and Roland Morris Questionnaire scores (P < 0.01) than the sham control group. There were significant within-group reductions in pain in both groups during the trigger point acupuncture phase but not in the sham treatment phase. However, the beneficial effects were not sustained. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that trigger point acupuncture may have greater short term effects on low back pain in elderly patients than sham acupuncture.