Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Tops Drug For Back Pain Relief

Acupuncture with herbs outperforms ibuprofen for the relief of acute lower back pain due to lumbar sprain. Researchers from the Nanyang Institute of Technology conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Lower back pain depicted here. A six day follow-up measured a 96.97% total effective rate for the TCM acupuncture and herbs group. The ibuprofen group achieved a 72.73% total effective rate for the relief of lumbar sprain and associated pain.

An acupuncture point prescription of distal acupuncture points and an herbal compress was applied to all patients in the TCM group. The drug group received 300 mg of sustained release ibuprofen capsules orally. They were taken in the morning and at night. The ibuprofen group also received pain relieving musk plasters applied topically to the region of pain, once per day.

The acupuncture points were applied at the same time the patients received the herbal compress treatments. The acupuncture points were:

  • SI3 (Houxi, Back Stream)
  • LI4 (Hegu, Joining Valley)
  • Yaotongxue (N-UE-19, Lumbar Pain Point)

Yaotongxue is also known as Yaotongdian (Lumbar Pain Spot). It is a set of two acupoints on the dorsum of the hand. Each point of the Yaotongxue set may be referred to by a specific name. The acupoint between the second and third metacarpal bones is called Weiling and the point between the fourth and fifth metacarpals is Jingling. SI3, LI4, and Yaotongxue were needled bilaterally for a total of eight acupuncture points. After insertion, a slight lifting and thrusting technique was combined with twisting at a rate of once every ten minutes. Total needle retention time was thirty minutes. Acupuncture was administered once per day for a total of three acupuncture treatments.

The herbal compress was decocted from 30 g of each fo the following ingredients:

  • Du Huo
  • Mu Gua
  • Hong Hua
  • Hua Jiao
  • Shen Jin Cao
  • Tou Gu Cao
  • Da Xue Teng (Hong Teng)
  • Su Mu
  • Ai Ye
  • Dang Gui
  • Chuan Xiong
  • Du Zhong
  • Chuan Wu

The herbs were prepared by placing them in a 30 cm x 45 cm cloth packet. Needles in hand of acupuncturist. This was added to a pot of 1,500 ml of water and was simmered for 30 minutes. Two 25 cm x 60 cm cotton towels were soaked in the hot herbal water and left to cool to a hot temperature appropriate for contact with the skin. The towels were place on a 50 cm x 50 cm plastic cloth atop the clinical bed and the patient rested directly on the towels. The towels covered the lumbar region. The towels were changed over a total retention time of thirty minutes to one hour.

The total effective rate was calculated as a combination of recovery and improvement categorizations. The patients classified as recovered had no lumbar pain and normal spinal region activity. Improvement was defined as significant relief from lumbar pain with normal spinal activity for basic activity levels. The TCM group achieved a 96.97% total effective rate and the ibuprofen group achieved a 72.73% total effective rate.


Zhang, X. P., Zhang, Y. L. & Bian, H. (2014). Clinical Observation of Treatment on Acute Lumbar Sprain Using Acupuncture and Herbal Fomentation. Chinese Journal of Experimental Traditional Medical Formulae. 20(23).

Han, H. & Li, M. (2012). Efficacy of Acupuncture on Lumbar Pain Areas Combined with Exercises in Treating Acute Lumbar Sprain. Lishizhen Medicine and Materia Medical Research. 23(1): 244.


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