OBJECTIVES: To examine the feasibility of a main RCT to compare the effectiveness of two frequencies (2 versus 5 times/week) of acupuncture treatment for chronic low back pain (LBP). METHODS: Participants (n=30) with chronic LBP were randomised into two groups to receive 10 acupuncture treatments: Low Frequency Group, 2 times/week for five weeks (n=15); High Frequency Group, 5 times/week for two weeks (n=15). The following outcomes were measured blindly at baseline, 2 weeks, 5 weeks, 3 months and 1 year: pain on a VAS, functional disability using the RMDQ, quality of life using the Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP-2), psychological impact with the Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CSQ) and Pain Locus of Control (PLC) questionnaire. Two objective outcomes, the Shuttle Walk Test (SWT) and Lateral Trunk Flexibility (LTF), were also measured. RESULTS: The compliance rate was 100% for each group. Some of the measurements were shown to be sensitive (VAS, RMDQ, MYMOP-2 Wellbeing). 66-330 participants would be required for a fully powered non-inferiority trial. The groups were balanced at baseline for LBP and demographic characteristics. There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of any of the outcomes, at each follow-up time point. It was notable however that the clinically important improvement in terms of pain, functional disability, quality of life, and SWT in both groups was achieved within the first two weeks, which was maintained at one year follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: It is feasible to conduct a main RCT, to compare different frequencies of acupuncture for LBP, using sensitive measurements. Also the trend for early clinically important improvement within a minimum of four measurements is worthy of further study.
- Low back pain
- controlled trials