Objective: To study the effectiveness of electroacupuncture of the spinal nerve root using a selective spinal nerve block technique for the treatment of lumbar and lower limb symptoms in patients with lumbar spinal canal stenosis.
Methods: Subjects were 17 patients with spinal canal stenosis who did not respond to 2 months of general conservative treatment and conventional acupuncture. Under x-ray fluoroscopy, two acupuncture needles were inserted as close as possible to the relevant nerve root, as determined by subjective symptoms and x-ray and MRI findings, and low-frequency electroacupuncture stimulation was performed (10 Hz, 10 min). Patients received 3–5 once-weekly treatments, and were evaluated immediately before and after each treatment and 3 months after completion of treatment.
Results: After the first nerve root electroacupuncture stimulation, scores for lumbar and lower limb symptoms improved significantly (low back pain, p<0.05; lower limb pain, p<0.05; lower limb dysaesthesia, p<0.01) with some improvement in continuous walking distance. Symptom scores and continuous walking distance showed further improvement before the final treatment (p<0.01), and a significant sustained improvement was observed 3 months after completion of treatment (p<0.01).
Conclusion: Lumbar and lower limb symptoms, for which conventional acupuncture and general conservative treatment had been ineffective, improved significantly during a course of electroacupuncture to the spinal nerve root, showing sustained improvement even 3 months after completion of treatment. The mechanisms of these effects may involve activation of the pain inhibition system and improvement of nerve blood flow.