Trigger Point Acupuncture and Exercise for Chronic Low Back Pain in Older Adult: a Preliminary Randomized Clinical Trial

J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2022 Apr 30;15(2):143-151. doi: 10.51507/j.jams.2022.15.2.143.


Background: Exercise therapy is the first choice non-pharmacotherapeutic approach for musculoskeletal pain; however, it often interferes with the implementation and continuation of exercise due to fear-avoidance behaviors. Trigger point acupuncture (TrPAcp) has been reported to reduce musculoskeletal pain.

Objectives: To examine the efficacy of exercise combined with TrPAcp compared to exercise alone for older patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP), the most common subjective symptom reported by old people of both sexes in Japan.

Methods: In this single-center randomized controlled trial conducted at Teikyo Heisei University, 15 men and women aged ≥ 65 years with low back pain for at least 3 months who met the eligibility criteria were included. The Ex+TrPAcp group received exercise and trigger point acupuncture, while the Ex group received only exercise for 3 months. The main outcome, pain intensity, was measured using the numerical rating scale (NRS). Improvement was defined as a decrease in NRS of ≥ 2 or less than moderate (NRS < 4).

Results: The analysis included 7 of 8 cases in the Ex+TrPAcp group and 7 of 7 cases in the Ex group. NRS improved in 6 of 7 and 1 of 7 patients in the intervention and control groups, respectively, with a significant difference between groups (p = 0.03, ϕ = 0.71). Regarding adverse events due to acupuncture, one patient (14.3%) complained of heaviness after acupuncture. Nothing specific was reported with exercise.

Conclusion: Compared with Ex alone, Ex+TrPAcp may be more effective therapy for older people with CLBP who do not have an exercise habit.

Keywords: Acupuncture therapy; Chronic pain; Dry needling; Low back pain; Trigger points; Walking exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Aged
  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / therapy
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Pain*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trigger Points