American College of Physicians Endorses Acupuncture for Back Pain

On February 14, the American College of Physicians published a guideline presenting the evidence and clinical recommendations for noninvasive treatment of low back pain in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The College conducted a systematic review of scientific research on noninvasive treatments for adults suffering from acute, sub-acute or chronic low back pain.

They strongly recommended that clinicians and patents should select non-drug treatments including acupuncture, superficial heat, massage, spinal manipulation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, exercise and multidisciplinary rehabilitation. Evidence indicates acupuncture may produce a greater overall improvement than treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs.

Many clinicians recommend using ice on acute low back pain, but Chinese medicine has historically recommended heat applications. The college did not recommend ice and cited evidence indicating that treating acute or sub-acute low back pain with superficial heat provides more effective pain relief than use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Don Matesz, MS, Lac, is the owner, acupuncturist and herbalist at Barefoot Acupuncture, in Scottsdale. For more information, call 602-954-8016 or visit

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