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York Acupuncture for Back Pain (YACBAC) Trial

Back pain is a major cause of ill health and time lost from work. Conventional medical treatments often have limited success and the NHS has identified back pain as a priority condition for research.

York Acupuncture for Back Pain (YAcBac) trial

Following on from two pilot studies, the YAcBac trial was designed to evaluate the clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic low back pain. The trial recruited 43 general practitioners who referred 241 patients, who were then randomly allocated to receive either 10 acupuncture treatments or to continue to receive usual GP care alone. They key outcome measure was bodily pain, as measured by the SF-36 at 12 and 24 months after randomisation. Acupuncture patients reported significantly greater reduction in back pain as well as less worry about their back pain. In addition the acupuncture service was found to be cost effective. Moreover, the research team conducted a number of associated studies which may be of further interest, see publications below.

Impact on policy

In 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that acupuncture should be offered for people with persistent low back pain. This recommendation was based on evidence from the trial: “The strongest evidence comes from the Thomas paper which included the correct population and was well conducted....A well conducted UK based cost effectiveness analysis study showed acupuncture to be a cost effective treatment”. NICE’s recommendations for a course of acupuncture were identical to our trial treatment course, that is 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 months.


Amount: £229,000
Funder(s): NIHR HTA
Start Date: 1999
Expiry Date: 2003


Internal Staff

  • Hugh MacPherson

External Collaborators

  • Kate Thomas

Health Services Policy Research in the Department of Health Sciences

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