Bee venom, a popular cure for a range of diseases used in ancient traditional medicine, may today prove to be an effective therapy for patients with chronic back pain, new research suggests.
University of Exeter researchers have established that certain compounds found in bee venom may relieve joint pain. In another study by the University of North Carolina, researchers examined the effect of bee venom on leg and back pain, finding that bee venom together with other treatments included in the study reduced pain by up to two-thirds, though it was hard to say how much effect bee venom alone had.
Now in a new trial in South Korea, cited by the Daily Mail, a gel made of dried bee venom will be injected into up to ten traditional acupuncture sites in the lower back of patients to investigate its effectiveness in treating chronic back pain. The study, which is being carried out at the University Hospital of Gangdong, will recruit 100 patients. Half of the patients will receive bee venom injections going to a depth of 1 cm into the skin and the other half will receive dummy (salt-water) injections, with both groups having six treatment sessions over a three-week period.
A second, larger trial enrolling over 300 patients will investigate the effect of dried bee venom in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients will receive up to 20 injections in the knee over 12 weeks. One in three patients will have a placebo and the pain levels will be compared at the end of the 12-week period.
While there is no clear clinical evidence yet showing that bee venom is an effective treatment for musculoskeletal pain, the new Korean study could prove whether it may be an effective therapy for joint pain, a spokeswoman from the charity Arthritis Research UK said.