Listed in Issue 36


LONGWORTH and McCARTHY, East Finchley Clinic, London UK write that the association between acupuncture (AP) and pain relief is so strong that is has tended to obscure other clinically significant results. The authors review (77 references) the literature regarding acupuncture treatment for the range of low back syndromes.



the review covers various aspects of AP treatment for low back syndromes related to lumbar intervertebral disk prolapse (PID). The volume of research is considerable, although the quality of research is variable, particularly regarding design, consistency and follow-up.


Despite the variable quality of the research, there are a large number of patients who appear to have been successfully treated and who have received symptomatic relief from AP treatment. These results are further supported by studies with patients previously unsuccessfully treated with other conventional methods. The role envisaged for AP for lumbar PID and sciatica is as a supplementary therapy which could reduce the requirement of more invasive treatments. This role might not be the case for all conditions, such as cauda equina compression, where surgery must remain the treatment of choice.


AP needs to be explored more fully, using appropriately designed research, to enable this discipline to achieve its full therapeutic potential.


Longworth W and McCarthy PW. A review of research on acupuncture for the treatment of lumbar disk protrusions and associated neurological symptomatology. J Altern Complement Med 3(1): 55-76. Spring 1997.

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