Acupuncture for quality of life in patients having pain associated with the spine: a systematic review

Lu, S 2007, Acupuncture for quality of life in patients having pain associated with the spine: a systematic review, Masters by Research, Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Acupuncture for quality of life in patients having pain associated with the spine: a systematic review
Author(s) Lu, S
Year 2007
Abstract Background: Pain associated with the spine (PAWS) refers to pain in the neck, thorax, lower back or sacrum. It impacts on patients' Quality of Life (QoL), including working ability, daily functioning, sleep and psychological well-being. A number of clinical trials have demonstrated that acupuncture was beneficial for patients with PAWS. However the overall effect of acupuncture on these patients' QoL is unknown.

Aims: The current study aimed to conduct a systematic review (SR) of clinical trials to determine the effect of acupuncture on QoL and pain for patients with PAWS. In addition, a narrative review (NR) was conducted to compare patients' perceived changes (PCC) with the standard QoL instruments used in acupuncture clinical trials for pain.

Methods: For the SR, PubMed, Embase (via ScienceDirect), CINAHL (Via EBSCO) and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of acupuncture for PAWS condition(s) that include both QoL and pain assessments with a Jadad score of three or greater were included.

For the NR, PubMed was searched to identify studies reporting PPC after acupuncture and/or traditional Chinese medicine. Extracted data were grouped and compared with domains of the QoL instruments.

Results: In total, 21 RCTs were included and 17 of them had sufficient data for analysis. QoL was measured using 15 different instruments. Randomisation procedures and dropouts were adequately reported in all 17 studies.

Four studies compared acupuncture with wait-list or usual-care. Two demonstrated that acupuncture had a superior effect on improving physical and mental components of QoL measured by Short Form-36 health survey questionnaire and pain at the three month follow-up.

Studies comparing acupuncture with sham/placebo acupuncture or placebo-TENS found either no difference between the treatments or conflicting results.

When acupuncture was compared with active interventions, there was no difference except that at the intermediate-term follow-up massage was better for disability and pain and physiotherapy was better for Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire. Acupuncture was also better than TENS for pain.

The combined therapy of acupuncture and an active intervention showed a superior result than the latter alone in the short-term.

Six studies were identified for the NR. Patients reported 11 categories of changes after acupuncture, such as reduced reliance on other therapies, enhanced spirituality, prevention of disease. However, these clinical outcomes were not included in any of the QoL instruments used in the included RCTs.

Conclusion: There is moderate to strong evidence that acupuncture is more effective than wait-list or usual-care at the short-term follow-up in improving QoL of patients with PAWS. When acupuncture is combined with another therapy, the combined therapy seems to produce a better outcome. Acupuncture is not better than sham/placebo acupuncture or placebo-TENS. Surprisingly, the commonly used QoL instruments do not measure all the changes perceived by patients as a result of acupuncture and/or traditional Chinese medicine.

There is a pressing need to design QoL assessments that are suitable for acupuncture research. Further studies should have larger sample sizes and additional validated outcome assessments are required to detect effects of acupuncture.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Acupuncture Research
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