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A large matched cohort study from Korea suggests that undergoing acupuncture treatment is associated with lower lumbar surgery rates for low back pain (LBP) patients. Using data from a nationwide insurance database, the authors identified all newly diagnosed LBP patients in Korea over a six year period, and divided them into those who had had acupuncture and those who had not. After matching, 130,089 subjects were included in each study group. The lumbar surgery rate was significantly lower in the acupuncture group compared with the control group (hazard ratio [HR] 0.633). Lowered HR in the acupuncture group was consistently observed in the acupuncture group for all age strata (except for patients in their 20s), and all income groups. Sensitivity analyses showed that the number of acupuncture sessions had no major impact on the likelihood of lumbar surgery, but also that more intensive acupuncture treatment was associated with further reduction in lumbar surgery rates.

Impact of acupuncture treatment on the lumbar surgery rate for low back pain in Korea: A nationwide matched retrospective cohort study. PLoS One. 2018 Jun 12;13(6):e0199042.


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