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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 301767, 12 pages
Research Article

Does Acupuncture Improve Quality of Life for Patients with Pain Associated with the Spine? A Systematic Review

Traditional & Complementary Medicine Research Program, Health Innovations Research Institute and Discipline of Chinese Medicine, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Bundoora, VIC 3083, Australia

Received 4 November 2009; Revised 2 February 2010; Accepted 1 July 2010

Copyright © 2011 Shao-chen Lu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for qualities of life (QoL) in patients suffering from pain associated with the spine (PAWS). Acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain severity, but its effect on QoL is unknown. PubMed, CINAHL, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials as well as EMBASE were searched. Published randomized controlled trials on PAWS comparing acupuncture with waiting-list or sham interventions were considered. Eight out of 186 trials were included. For physical functioning, acupuncture was better than waiting-list at immediate and short-term followups; and was better than sham interventions at immediate assessment (SMD = 0.40. 95% CI 0.06 to 0.74). For mental functioning, acupuncture was better than waiting-list at short-term followup and sham interventions at intermediate-term followup (SMD = 0.27. 95% CI 0.03 to 0.51). A similar effect was observed on pain reduction. Discrepancies in point selection for relieving anxiety and insufficient training of trial acupuncturists were also identified. Acupuncture has a moderate effect on the improvement of physical functioning and pain for PAWS patients in the short term; but the effect for mental functioning is small and delayed. Future trials should address point selection and consistency in the qualifications of trial acupuncturists.