Introduction: Chronic low back pain is a common condition affecting a significant proportion of the population and has large economic implications on the society. Acupuncture has grown in popularity as an alternative therapy for chronic low back pain. Recent National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on low back pain offer a course of acupuncture as a baseline treatment option according to patient preference. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate if this treatment option is justified in view of recent evidence available on the efficacy of acupuncture.
Materials and methods: Studies included were identified by a PubMed search for relevant, randomised, controlled trials on the 23 July 2009. A systematic review was performed.
Results: Fifteen randomised controlled trials were identified. Of these, four met the eligibility criteria and were critically appraised. These trials suggest acupuncture can be superior to usual care in treating chronic low back pain, especially, when patients have positive expectations about acupuncture.
Conclusions: NICE guidelines of a course of acupuncture, offered according to patient preference as a treatment option for chronic low back pain, are justified.