Effects of intracutaneous injections of sterile water in patients with acute low back pain: a randomized, controlled, clinical trial

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2016 Mar;49(3):e5092. doi: 10.1590/1414-431X20155092. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Intracutaneous sterile water injection (ISWI) is used for relief of low back pain during labor, acute attacks of urolithiasis, chronic neck and shoulder pain following whiplash injuries, and chronic myofascial pain syndrome. We conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the effect of ISWI for relief of acute low back pain (aLBP). A total of 68 patients (41 females and 27 males) between 18 and 55 years old experiencing aLBP with moderate to severe pain (scores ≥5 on an 11-point visual analogue scale [VAS]) were recruited and randomly assigned to receive either ISWIs (n=34) or intracutaneous isotonic saline injections (placebo treatment; n=34). The primary outcome was improvement in pain intensity using the VAS at 10, 45, and 90 min and 1 day after treatment. The secondary outcome was functional improvement, which was assessed using the Patient-Specific Functional Scale (PSFS) 1 day after treatment. The mean VAS score was significantly lower in the ISWI group than in the control group at 10, 45, and 90 min, and 1 day after injection (P<0.05, t-test). The mean increment in PSFS score of the ISWI group was 2.9±2.2 1 day after treatment, while that in the control group was 0.9±2.2. Our study showed that ISWI was effective for relieving pain and improving function in aLBP patients at short-term follow-up. ISWI might be an alternative treatment for aLBP patients, especially in areas where medications are not available, as well as in specific patients (e.g., those who are pregnant or have asthma), who are unable to receive medications or other forms of analgesia because of side effects.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Pain / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intradermal / methods
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Water / administration & dosage*


  • Water