Acupuncture reduces chronic neck pain, according to a recent systematic review of research literature completed by a group of Canadian Cochrane review authors to determine whether there is evidence that it is effective in treating neck disorders. The review was part of a series designed to summarize current scientific evidence on treatments for neck disorders due to whiplash, muscle strain and other “mechanical” causes.
The review included 10 trials (661 participants) that examined the effects of acupuncture on chronic neck pain (lasting at least three months). One study included individuals with neck pain that lasted for at least six weeks but considered chronic. Some trials compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture, waiting list or other sham treatments (sham laser) while others compared acupuncture to other treatments (mobilization, traction, massage). Most of the studies included at least five treatment sessions.
The authors concluded that for chronic mechanical neck disorders, there was evidence that acupuncture was more effective for pain relief measured immediately post-treatment and at short-term follow-up when compared to some sham controls (laser, acupuncture needles placed in the wrong acupoints). For chronic neck disorders with radicular symptoms (pain symptoms radiating to the arms), there was evidence that acupuncture was more effective for pain relief than a wait list control at short-term follow up. “The specific effects of acupuncture have important clinical treatment benefits,” conclude the review authors.
“What we need now are some trials that include greater numbers of people and look at the long-term effect of the treatment,” said lead review author Kien Trinh, M.D., of McMaster University in Canada. Trinh calls for larger and longer trials, preferably at least 500 patients and follow-up after a year or more, to further determine benefits of acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is effective in treatment of chronic neck pain but there is no cure for the musculoskeletal system disorder. For some patients, acupuncture may be the best treatment, while different combined therapies may work best for others. For more information on acupuncture treatment for neck disorders contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.