Chronic non-specific low back pain is the most common medical problem for which patients seek complementary and alternative medical treatment, including bee venom acupuncture. However, the effectiveness and safety of such treatments have not been fully established by randomized clinical trials. The aim of this study is to determine whether bee venom acupuncture is effective for improving pain intensity, functional status and quality of life of patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.
This study is a randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled clinical trial with two parallel arms. Fifty-four patients between 18 and 65 years of age with non-radicular chronic low back pain experiencing low back pain lasting for at least the previous three months and >=4 points on a 10-cm visual analog scale for bothersomeness at the time of screening will be included in the study. Participants will be randomly allocated into the real or sham bee venom acupuncture groups and treated by the same protocol to minimize non-specific and placebo effects. Patients, assessors, acupuncturists and researchers who prepare the real or sham bee venom acupuncture experiments will be blinded to group allocation. All procedures, including the bee venom acupuncture increment protocol administered into predefined acupoints, are designed by a process of consensus with experts and previous researchers according to the Standards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture. Bothersomeness measured using a visual analogue scale will be the primary outcome. Back pain-related dysfunction, pain, quality of life, depressive symptoms and adverse experiences will be measured using the visual analogue scale for pain intensity, the Oswestry Disability Index, the EuroQol 5-Dimension, and the Beck's Depression Inventory. These measures will be recorded at baseline and 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 12 weeks.
The results from this study will provide clinical evidence on the efficacy and safety of bee venom acupuncture in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.