VITAL SIGNS: OUTCOMES – Acupuncture and Neck Pain

By JOHN O’NEIL, reproduced from The New York Times
Published: June 22, 2004

Acupuncture treatment for Neck PainAcupuncture may have lasting benefits for neck pain, the authors of a new study say.

The study found that people who received acupuncture had less pain three years later than people with similar pain who received a dummy treatment.

Acupuncture has become widely used in the United States and Europe as well as in Asia, though research on its effectiveness for different conditions is mixed. One problem is how to create the equivalent of placebo pills for a treatment that involves sticking needles into patients.

Acupuncture treatment for Neck Pain

For the new study, published in the June issue of the journal Pain, researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway developed a technique for a sham treatment. Twelve female office workers with chronic neck and shoulder pain received 10 sessions of standard acupuncture and acupressure techniques; another 12 workers had the needles placed in spots a few millimeters away from the points used in a standard treatment.

The intensity of pain reported by the real acupuncture group fell by 70 percent over the course of treatment, and three years later remained at about half the pretreatment level. The pain reported by those in the sham treatment group dipped slightly during treatment, but crept back up afterward; they were in more pain three years later than before the experiment began.