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Acupuncture Safe and Effective for Neck Pain

Posted on: 12/21/2006
In this study, researchers in Spain compare the use of acupuncture and TENS-placebo in the treatment of chronic neck pain. Patients in the study were adults who had three months or more of uncomplicated neck pain. Everyone was treated five times over a period of three weeks.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment that involves inserting very thin, sterile needles into the skin. The needles are placed at different depths and angles. The goal is to bring the body’s energy fields into balance thereby helping the body to self-regulate. Improved circulation and healing can result in reduced pain. TENS stands for transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation. TENS is a low-voltage, electrical impulse generator used to control pain.

The acupuncture group received acupuncture to points used to reduce cervical pain. Needles were kept in place for 30 minutes. Each needle was rotated or twisted every 10 minutes. The patients were also shown how to apply pressure to several ear points three times a day at home.

The TENS-placebo (control) group had electrodes placed on the skin over acupuncture points. Placebo means there is no real treatment. Any positive effect or benefit from the treatment occurs because the patient thinks it's working. The machine was fixed so that no current passed through the electrodes. The machine had a flashing light and made sounds during the 30-minute treatment.

Results were measured in terms of neck pain during motion, quality of life, and use of pain meds. Patients in both groups were allowed to take pain relievers whenever needed. The control group took twice as much medication for pain as the acupuncture group. Many of these patients took more than the prescribed dose.

After the treatment ended, the acupuncture group had much better results. The results agreed with other similar studies using acupuncture to treat neck pain. The authors conclude acupuncture is safe and more effective than the placebo TENS treatment. Acupuncture can be used routinely to treat this problem.

Jorge Vas, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Acupuncture for Chronic Uncomplicated Neck Pain: A Randomised Controlled Study. In Pain. December 2006. Vol. 126. No. 1-3. Pp. 245-255.

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