is a technique of the ancient healing system of Traditional Chinese Medicine that uses needles inserted in strategic locations to effect a healing response. Acupuncture has been growing in popularity in the U.S. in the last 20 years, and researchers have begun to study its effects on chronic neck pain
. A review of the medical literature on the use of acupuncture for chronic neck pain has been released by the Cochrane Library
(2006, Issue 3). The Cochrane Library
reviewers looked at 10 studies, involving over 600 participants to find out if acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic neck pain. Because the studies were of small sample size, an overall picture of the use of acupuncture in treating chronic neck pain could not be established, and the conclusions were, according to the reviewers, “limited”.
- There is evidence of acupuncture’s pain relieving effects over no treatment, sham treatment and inactive treatment.
- Comparisons between acupuncture and massage therapy showed limited evidence in favor of acupuncture.
- There was slightly stronger evidence for the use of acupuncture in conditions with radiculopathy.
While the Cochrane Library
reviewers looked at studies with end-of-treatment and short-term follow up intervals, another study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine
in 2004 looked at 124 participants after a follow-up period of 2 years. This study indicated that there was not enough evidence to consider acupuncture as clinically significant. In the study, 1 group received acupuncture while the other received a mock form, delivered by an electroacpuncture stimulation unit.
Yet another 2006 study, published in Pain Journal (August 22) compared acupuncture with TENS, and found acupuncture to be the more effective treatment. The study's authors concluded that acupuncture is safe and "suitable for use in clinical practice".
Illustration (c) Anne Asher 2006 licensed to About.com