An American study comparing the effects of verum electro-acupuncture (VEA) versus sham electro-acupuncture (SEA) on chronic low back pain has found limited evidence of superiority for real treatment. A total of 121 adults were randomly assigned to twelve sessions of either verum or placebo EA, administered over six weeks. In the VEA arm, participants received an individualised acupoint prescription consisting of up to 20 local and distal points, with several pairs of points electrically stimulated at 2 Hz. Those in the placebo group received non-penetrating sham needling with sham EA stimulation. Each participant also received heat treatment (local in the VEA versus distal in the SEA group) and auricular acupuncture therapy (penetrating in the VEA versus distal in the SEA group). Although there was a trend towards benefit in the VEA group, based on decrease in PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) pain scores from baseline, the trend was not statistically significant compared to that in the SEA group (decrease in T-scores from baseline was VEA for -4.33, versus -2.90 for SEA). However a statistically significant effect of real treatment was observed for the secondary outcome of reduction in RMDQ (Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire) when VEA was compared with SEA (-2.77 compared with -0.67). Effective coping skills and non-White race were additionally associated with a better response to EA.

Effect of Electroacupuncture vs Sham Treatment on Change in Pain Severity Among Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Oct 1;3(10):e2022787.