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Treatment of low back pain by acupressure and physical therapy: randomised controlled trial

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 23 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:696
  1. Lisa Li-Chen Hsieh, PhD student1,
  2. Chung-Hung Kuo, chief and orthopedist2,
  3. Liang Huei Lee, attending medical neurologist3,
  4. Amy Ming-Fang Yen, assistant professor1,
  5. Kuo-Liong Chien, associate professor1,
  6. Tony Hsiu-Hsi Chen, professor (stony{at}
  1. 1 Institute of Preventive Medicine, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
  2. 2 Hsin Kao Mei Orthopedic Special Clinic, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  3. 3 Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  1. Correspondence to: Tony Hsiu-Hsi Chen
  • Accepted 10 January 2006


Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of acupressure in terms of disability, pain scores, and functional status.

Design Randomised controlled trial.

Setting Orthopaedic clinic in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Participants 129 patients with chronic low back pain.

Intervention Acupressure or physical therapy for one month.

Main outcome measures Self administered Chinese versions of standard outcome measures for low back pain (primary outcome: Roland and Morris disability questionnaire) at baseline, after treatment, and at six month follow-up.

Results The mean total Roland and Morris disability questionnaire score after treatment was significantly lower in the acupressure group than in the physical therapy group regardless of the difference in absolute score (- 3.8, 95% confidence interval - 5.7 to - 1.9) or mean change from the baseline (- 4.64, - 6.39 to - 2.89). Acupressure conferred an 89% (95% confidence interval 61% to 97%) reduction in significant disability compared with physical therapy. The improvement in disability score in the acupressure group compared with the physical group remained at six month follow-up. Statistically significant differences also occurred between the two groups for all six domains of the core outcome, pain visual scale, and modified Oswestry disability questionnaire after treatment and at six month follow-up.

Conclusions Acupressure was effective in reducing low back pain in terms of disability, pain scores, and functional status. The benefit was sustained for six months.


  • Ethical approval The study protocol was approved by an ethics committee of the specialist orthopaedic clinic.

    We thank Richard A Deyo for granting permission to use the standardised “core” set of questions and questionnaires.

  • Contributors TH-HC was responsible for study design and implementation, data collection and analysis, and interpretation of the findings and drafted the paper. LL-CH, C-HK, and LHL contributed to study implementation, data collection, interpretation of findings, and writing the draft. AM-FY and K-LC contributed to management and analysis, interpretation of findings, and revision of the manuscript. TH-HC and LL-CH are guarantors.

  • Funding None.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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