People suffering from chronic pains in their lower back could reduce their risk of requiring spinal surgery by undertaking acupuncture.
That is the finding of a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which found that acupuncture can reduce symptoms associated with chronic back pain and help patients to function more effectively in their daily activities.
Researchers from the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, US found that one in five people functioned significantly better within seven weeks of the end of their acupuncture treatment - with one in eight still feeling the benefits after a year.
However, the study did not reveal the precise reason as to why the acupuncture treatment relieved pain, with the scientists refusing to rule out physiological effects.
Dr Daniel Cherkin, leader of the trial, said: "We found that simulated acupuncture, without penetrating the skin, produced as much benefit as needle acupuncture—and that raises questions about how acupuncture works."
Last month, scientists announced the development of a simple 'bedside' test that could help doctors to differentiate between various causes of back pain in patients.