Acupuncture for acute non-specific low back pain: a randomised, controlled, multicentre intervention study in general practice-the Acuback study

BMJ Open. 2020 Aug 6;10(8):e034157. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-034157.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate whether a single treatment session of acupuncture, when applied in addition to standard treatment for acute low back pain (ALBP), reduces the time to recovery compared with standard treatment alone.

Design: A multicentre, randomised, controlled trial.

Setting: Conducted at 11 Norwegian general practitioners' (GPs') offices.

Participants: 171 adults aged 20-55 years seeking their GP for ALBP (≤14 days) between March 2014 and March 2017. Patients with secondary back pain and previous sick leave and acupuncture treatment was excluded.

Interventions: The participants were randomised to either the control group (CG) or the acupuncture group (AG) by online software. The CG received standard treatment according to the Norwegian guidelines, while the AG received one session of Western medical acupuncture treatment in addition to standard treatment. The statistician was blinded to group status.

Primary and secondary outcome measures: The primary outcome was median days to recovery. Secondary outcomes were pain intensity, global improvement, back-specific functional status, sick leave, medication and adverse effects.

Results: 185 participants were randomised, 95 in the CG and 90 in the AG. 14 participants did not receive the allocated intervention and 4 were excluded from the analysis. Thus, 167 participants were included in the analysis, 86 in the CG and 81 in the AG. The groups were similar according to baseline characteristics. The median time to recovery was 14 days for the CG and 9 days for the AG, HR 1.37 (95% CI 0.95 to 1.96), (p=0.089). No serious adverse effects were reported.

Conclusions: We did not find any statistically significant reduction in time-to-recovery after a single session of acupuncture for ALBP compared with standard care.

Trial registration number: NCT01439412.

Keywords: back pain; clinical trials; complementary medicine; pain management; primary care; rehabilitation medicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Acupuncture*
  • Adult
  • Back Pain
  • General Practice*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data