Do Expectations and Preferences Predict Outcome of Acupuncture as Back Pain Therapy


In a recent study published in Spine researchers concluded that contrary to previous published studies their results on treatment expectations and preferences of patients were not predictive of treatment outcomes for patients with chronic back pain. This was one of the first studies using acupuncture as the treatment and there were 477 acupuncture naive individuals with chronic back pain as subjects. Subjects were randomized to 1 of 3 acupuncture or simulated acupuncture treatment groups for 10 treatments over a 7 week period and were masked regarding treatment assignments. Before treatment subjects were asked about their expectations of treatment success, impressions, knowledge about acupuncture and treatment preferences. Outcome measures included functional status measured on the Roland score and symptoms bothersome and were measured at 8 and 52 weeks by telephone interviewers who were unaware of which group the person being interviewed was in. Those with high pretreatment expectations for the success of acupuncture were more likely to report higher general expectations of improvement,a preference for acupuncture, had heard that acupuncture was an effective treatment, and had a positive impression of acupuncture. Yet, none of these variables was a significant predictor of improvement of back pain symptoms at 8 or 52 weeks. The researchers concluded that the relationship between expectations and outcomes may be more complex that previously thought.

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