The diagnosis and treatment of patients with chronic low-back pain by traditional Chinese medical acupuncturists

J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Dec;7(6):641-50. doi: 10.1089/10755530152755199.


The selection of appropriate treatments in clinical trials of acupuncture requires understanding how acupuncturists diagnose and treat specific conditions. We examined the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) diagnoses and treatments for patients with chronic low-back pain using two separate sets of treatment records. Information from more than 150 initial visits was available for analysis. A diagnosis of Qi and Blood Stagnation or Qi Stagnation was made for 85% of patients. A diagnosis of kidney deficiency (or one of its three subtypes) was made for 33%-51% of patients. Other specific diagnoses were made for less than 20% of the patients. An average of 12-13 needles was used in each treatment. Although more than 85 different acupoints were used in each data set, only 5 or 6 acupoints were used in more than 20 of the treatments in each data set. Only two of those acupoints (UB23, UB40) were the same for both sources of data. More than half of the patients received adjunctive treatments, including heat (36%-67%), and cupping (16%-21%). There was substantial variability in treatments among providers. Such diversity will make it challenging to select a single treatment that has wide applicability. We recommend that researchers attempt to develop a treatment that is considered credible by expert acupuncturists and has broad features characteristic of patterns of common clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Physical Examination
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Research Design