Acupuncture has been used as a therapeutic intervention for the treatment of numerous diseases and symptoms for thousands of years, and low back pain has been studied and treated the most in acupuncture clinics. Traditional theory strongly suggests that the selection of acupoints will influence their clinical effects and combinations (e.g., the clinical effects of a particular acupoint or combination on reducing pain), but this idea was not considered in earlier systematic reviews and meta-analyses. We performed a systematic review, meta-analysis, and network analysis to evaluate the magnitude of the effects of acupoints used to treat low back pain in randomized controlled clinical trials. We found that acupuncture significantly reduced pain in patients with low back pain compared with the control group. The most frequently prescribed acupoints were BL23, GV3, BL20, BL40, and BL25, whereas the acupoints with the highest average effect size scores were BL20, GV3, GB30, GB34, and BL25. Further, the combinations of BL23-BL40, BL23-B25, and BL23-BL60 were the most frequently prescribed, while BL23-GV3, BL40-GV4, and BL23-BL25 showed the largest average effect size. By calculating clinical outcomes based on average effect sizes, we found that the most popular acupoints might not always be associated with the best results. Although a more thorough investigation is necessary to determine the clinical effects of each acupoint and combination on patients, we suggest that our approach may offer a fresh perspective that will be useful for future research.
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