Acupuncture is effective for patients with lumbar disc protrusions. CT scans confirm that acupuncture reduces disc protrusion size and increases healthy space in the spinal canal. Along with relief from nerve compression, investigators conclude that acupuncture improves range of motion and reduces pain for patients with lumbar disc protrusions.
Researchers from the Nanyang Municipal Central Hospital tested two acupoint prescriptions. The results of the investigation demonstrate that both acupuncture point prescriptions that were tested are effective for alleviating lumbar disc protrusions, but one is more effective than the other. We will take a look at both. CT (computed tomography) scans confirm the results, including improvements across multiple parameters (i.e., anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac, sagittal diameter of the spinal canal, nerve root compression ratio). 
Patients were evaluated before and after the treatment course. Both subjective and objective instruments were used to measure patient outcomes. The objective data was gathered using CT scans (also known as CAT scans), which are computer-processed X-ray images. The scans demonstrate that acupuncture reduces disc protrusions and alleviates nerve compression. CT images confirmed improvements in the thecal sac anteroposterior diameter and sagittal diameter of the spinal canal as well as the nerve root compression ratio.
Subjective data was gathered with two instruments. First, the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) was used to measure functional disability of the lower back. Second, the Japanese Orthopedic Association Lower Back Pain Evaluation Questionnaire (JOABPEQ) was used as an outcome measure for patients with lumbar disc protrusions. Patients demonstrated improvements with both the ODI and JOABPEQ.
Symptoms The following are results of the ODI and JOABPEQ for two separate groups receiving two different acupuncture treatment point prescriptions. The ODI score for the standard acupuncture control group averaged 23.35 before treatment and 8.34 after treatment. The ODI score for the acupuncture Yao San Zhen (lumbar three needles) treatment group averaged 23.12 before treatment and 5.28 after treatment.
The JOABPEQ score for the standard acupuncture control group was 6.22 before treatment and averaged 17.14 after treatment. The JOABPEQ score for the acupuncture Yao San Zhen (lumbar three needles) treatment group averaged 6.35 before treatment and 21.53 after treatment. The researchers conclude that the Yao San Zhen treatment group outperformed the standard acupuncture control group regarding the improvements of ODI and JOABPEQ scores.
CT Scans The thecal sac (dural sac) is a sheath around the spinal cord (above L2) and cauda equina. It is composed of dura mater, which is a thick connective tissue membrane. The anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac for the standard acupuncture control group decreased to an average of 35.72 mm after treatment, from a pre-treatment value of 56.44 mm. The anteroposterior diameter for the Yao San Zhen acupuncture treatment group averaged 56.35 mm before treatment and 26.14 mm after treatment. These measurements indicate a decrease in the size of the disc protrusions.
The sagittal diameter of the spinal canal for the standard acupuncture control group averaged 6.32 mm before treatment and 11.16 mm after treatment. The sagittal diameter for the Yao San Zhen acupuncture treatment group was 6.51 mm before treatment and 14.24 mm after treatment. This parameter is negatively associated with lumbar pain and the improvements are reflected by higher numbers. The Yao San Zhen style of acupuncture outperformed the standard acupuncture protocol.
The nerve root compression ratio for the standard acupuncture control group averaged 0.64 before treatment and 0.48 after treatment. The nerve root compression ratio for the treatment group averaged 0.67 before treatment and 0.32 after treatment. Both groups achieved significant improvements in CT measured parameters. Overall, the improvements were greater for the Yao San Zhen acupuncture treatment group.
Correlation Between ODI and CT Correlation between ODI and CT parameters (anteroposterior thecal sac diameter, sagittal spinal canal diameter, nerve root compression ratio) for two groups were analyzed. The results showed that the anteroposterior diameter and nerve root compression ratio were positively correlated with ODI scores, while the sagittal diameter of was negatively correlated with ODI scores. The researchers concluded that, “In patients with lumbar disc protrusion, the more severe the nerve root compression, the narrower the sagittal diameter on the CT, and the larger the anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac, the more serious the clinical symptoms.”
Design A total of 78 patients participated in the study. They were diagnosed and treated for lumbar disc protrusions between January 2016 and January 2017. The following inclusion criteria were applied:
Meeting the diagnostic criteria for both western medicine and Traditional Chinese MedicineAges between 20–50 yearsPain in the lower back and lower extremitiesConfirmed lumbar protrusions by CT or MRIPositive straight leg raise (SLR) test
The following exclusion criteria were applied:
Comorbid tumors, lumbar vertebral spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and spinal compression fracturesSevere and comorbid blood diseases and coagulation disordersPregnant or lactatingNeurological or mental diseases
Participants were randomly divided into two groups: Yao San Zhen treatment and standard acupuncture control, with 39 participants in each group. Both groups were equivalent in all relevant demographi