The experience of acupuncture care from the perspective of people with chronic low back pain: a grounded theory study

Acupunct Med. 2014 Aug;32(4):333-9. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010477. Epub 2014 May 1.


Objectives: To explore the experience of acupuncture care from the perspective of people with chronic low back pain.

Methods: A grounded theory, qualitative study using indepth interviews was undertaken with 11 people who had received acupuncture care for chronic low back pain. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Initial, focused and theoretical coding were used to identify a core category and several other categories.

Results: The core category, Reclaiming Control, was related to the sense of well-being experienced by most of the participants as a result of undergoing acupuncture care. The other categories were Gaining Sanctuary, Gaining Trust and Working Together. These categories reflected the processes of participants entering an aesthetically appealing, calm and relaxing space; developing confidence in the acupuncturists' ability to care for them; and negotiating strategies and sharing decision-making with acupuncturists about their care.

Conclusions: Clinicians using acupuncture as a management strategy for low back pain may elicit an immediate sense of calmness in patients with subsequent well-being benefits. A sense of calmness may also be enhanced through providing a relaxing physical environment. The transactional and interpersonal processes of establishing trust and rapport, and shared decision-making are important for clients. Shared decision-making can be improved by clinicians carefully considering the explanation of issues and plans to a particular patient, especially by developing an understanding of each patient's worldview and using language that the suits each individual's healthcare orientation. Our findings should be interpreted cautiously as the results may be generalisable only to private practice in affluent countries, and whether the findings are representative beyond this setting remains unclear.


Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult