British researchers have found that the wide-ranging lifestyle advice given by acupuncturists to patients with chronic neck pain, is associated with reduced pain and disability. In a three-arm trial, 517 patients were randomly allocated to receive acupuncture (up to 12 sessions), Alexander treatment or usual care. Acupuncturists were encouraged to provide their usual lifestyle advice, tailored to each patient, and covering such matters as exercise, relaxation, diet, rest and work. Advice was found to be provided to 84% of patients.
Compared with those in the usual care group, acupuncture patients made more lifestyle changes and improved their ability to reduce their neck pain without resorting to medication. This behaviour was associated with significant reductions in pain and disability scores after 12 months. The authors conclude that lifestyle advice based on acupuncture theory leads to active patient engagement, and this in turn makes an important contribution to treatment benefits.
(Lifestyle Advice and Self-Care Integral to Acupuncture Treatment for Patients with Chronic Neck Pain: Secondary Analysis of Outcomes Within a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, March 2017.)
Researchers from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, have concluded that both acupuncture and Alexander technique significantly reduce neck pain and associated disability over a 12 month period when compared with usual care alone.
The study recruited 517 patients from GP practices in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and York. Participants were randomly placed in one of three groups: one group was offered up to 20 half-hour lessons with an Alexander teacher plus usual care; another received up to 12 sessions of 50 minutes of acupuncture based on traditional Chinese medical theory with practitioners of the British Acupuncture Council plus usual care; and the third group received usual care alone. In all three groups, usual care included prescribed medications and visits to GPs, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals.
After 12 months, pain was reduced by 32% for those receiving acupuncture and 31% for those having Alexander lessons. When comparing Alexander lessons or acupuncture with usual care alone, these reductions were statistically significant. Moreover, patients in these two groups were found to be better able to cope without resorting to medication. Dr Hugh MacPherson, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences, said that we now have clear evidence that these two interventions provide longer-term benefits for chronic neck pain.
(Annals of Internal Medicine, 2 November 2015.)
A study undertaken in Brazil has shown acupuncture to be effective in reducing neck pain and improving range of neck motion in women with local myofascial pain. A total of 60 such women, aged 18 to 40, who had been experiencing head or neck pain for six months or more, were randomised to receive either acupuncture, electroacupuncture or sham treatment. Eight treatment sessions were given, and patients followed up 28 days later.
Both acupuncture groups reported a significant reduction in pain levels, compared with the sham group, and both acupuncture treatments also resulted in small increases in cervical (neck) range of motion.
(Pain intensity and cervical range of motion in women with myofascial pain treated with acupuncture and electroacupuncture: a double-blinded, randomized clinical trial. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 28 November 2014, on-line.)
Researchers in Belgium have found that just one session of acupuncture can already start to ease the discomfort of whiplash injuries. In a randomised, crossover, pilot trial, a total of 39 patients with chronic whiplash-associated disorders, received two treatment sessions of twenty minutes duration, of acupuncture and relaxation therapy randomly crossed over. Acupuncture was given by professional practitioners with at least 15 years experience in traditional Chinese treatment.
Pressure pain sensitivity in the neck was found to decrease more significantly following acupuncture than following relaxation. Sensitivity at a painful region in the calf, also improved, from which the researchers deduce acupuncture may be activating the body’s own pain-killing mechanisms.
(Does Acupuncture Activate Endogenous Analgesia in Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders? A Randomised Crossover Trial. European Journal of Pain, February 2013.)
Researchers in Turkey have found that acupuncture is a promising treatment option for the management of radicular pain (pain radiating in recognised patterns through the body indicative of pressure on specific spinal nerves at intervertebral disc level). They concluded it is non-invasive and with minimal side-effects.
Eighty patients (43 women and 37 men) with acute radicular pain of either lumbar or cervical (neck) origin, were randomly assigned to receive either nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or acupuncture. Half the group had lumbar disc herniations and half had cervical disc herniations, all diagnosed by NMR or CT scan. The NSAID administered was Tenoxicam plus another drug to protect the stomach from possible side-effects of the NSAID.
The effects of acupuncture were similar to those of NSAIDs, although for the cervical group ie pain originating in the neck, acupuncture was significantly more effective than NSAIDs in the short term. The benefits of acupuncture were noticeable after four treatments in the neck pain cases and six treatments in the lumbar pain cases. All forty acupuncture patients completed the study, whereas eight of the NSAID patients dropped out, three due to gastric side-effects of the drug. Patients found acupuncture interesting, and some were unwilling to take medication long-term.
(Effectiveness of Acupuncture with NSAID Medication in the Management of Acute Discogenic Radicular Pain: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Journal of Anesthesia and Clinical Research, March 2012.)