Acupuncture May Improve Leg Pain in Chronic Discogenic Sciatica

By Reuters Staff

August 13, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Acupuncture can relieve leg pain in patients with chronic discogenic sciatica, a small sham-controlled trial suggests.

"Further studies with larger sample sizes, longer treatment periods, and a longer-term follow-up period need to be conducted to verify these results," Dr. Ziling Huang of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing and colleagues conclude in Pain Medicine, online August 1.

Acupuncture is effective for treating inflammatory and neuropathic pain, the authors note. "However, opinions vary on whether clinicians should provide acupuncture for patients with sciatica because of the inconsistency in guidelines," they add.

The authors randomly assigned 46 patients with discogenic sciatica to undergo twelve sessions of acupuncture or sham acupuncture over four weeks. Twenty-three patients in the acupuncture group and 21 in the sham group completed the study.

There was a "small effect" for acupuncture, with a mean visual analog scale (VAS) for leg pain between-group difference of 7.28 mm (P=0.029) over the study. The difference reached clinical significance (greater than 5 mm) at two weeks and was greater than 10 mm at four weeks.

"A longer treatment period of more than four weeks needs to be conducted to investigate if the between-group difference in mean VAS scores for leg pain would continue to increase over acupuncture sessions," they write.

Mean VAS scores for low-back pain reached a clinically significant between-group difference at week 4 that persisted through week 28, although the difference did not reach clinical significance.

"According to the recommendations of the (American College of Physicians) guidelines, patients who have chronic low back pain with or without radiculopathy should be offered treatments with the least harm and lowest cost," Dr. Huang and colleagues write. "Acupuncture could be a promising therapeutic option for discogenic sciatica."


Pain Med 2019.