Acupuncture is safe and effective for relieving neck pain

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Do you have a pain in your neck that just won’t go away? Instead of taking painkillers, you could try acupuncture. A Canadian-led review recommended the procedure as a cost-effective and safe way to relieve mechanical neck pain, according to a National Center for Biological Information article.

There are many methods of pain treatment for the musculoskeletal system. Each possessed its advantages and disadvantages.

One option is acupuncture, a famous technique where thin needles are carefully inserted into certain parts of the body. It’s a staple part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and used for many centuries to treat a wide variety of symptoms.

In 2006, a McMaster University research team investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating sudden, semi-sudden, and long-term neck pain. Led by Kien Trinh, they wished to find out its efficacy for adults plagued with neck pain.

A decade later, Trinh’s team decided to update their earlier review. They consulted six major databases for published trials dating from their beginning to August 2015. They also looked up reference lists, a pair of trial registers, and the Traditional Chinese Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (TCMLARS), a database specializing in acupuncture.

The researchers included new evidence accumulated after the publication of the first study. They scored acupuncture according to how much it relieved pain, its effectiveness at reducing disability or restoring functionality, how satisfied the patient was, and the overall effect perceived by the patient.

Their efforts narrowed down the relevant material to 27 studies. These covered whiplash-associated disorders (WADS), chronic muscle neck pain, arthritis-related chronic pain, chronic neck pain with no specific causes, neck pain with radicular signs, and subacute or chronic cases of mechanical neck pain.

Acupuncture is safe and effective for relieving neck pain
In the studies, acupuncture is compared to either sham acupuncture, inactive treatment (placebo), or wait-list control, where the participants only receive attention once the active treatment group has finished. 

According to their findings, acupuncture is shown to benefit patients with mechanical neck pain at the following stages:
immediate-term follow-up versus sham acupuncture for reducing pain intensity;
at short-term follow-up versus sham or inactive treatment for alleviating pain intensity;
at short-term follow-up versus sham treatment for disability; and
at short-term follow-up versus wait-list control for lowering pain intensity and improving neck disability.
The meta-analysis likewise favored acupuncture over sham treatment, placebos, or delayed treatment.

Trinh further reported that patients reported only minor negative effects such as bruising, dizziness, fainting, local swelling, pain, and worsening of symptoms. None of these effects are dangerous, which suggests acupuncture is safe.

Chronic neck pain may require multiple treatment sessions due to the lengthy duration of the condition. However, acupuncture has been shown to have no serious side effects, so undergoing several sessions is safe.

The body of evidence supporting acupuncture is growing
In conclusion, the McMillan University researchers said they had accumulated significant amounts of evidence that acupuncture can relieve pain better than sham acupuncture. This is true both during the completion of the treatment and during the short-term follow-up.

Furthermore, patients who underwent acupuncture treatment reported feeling less pain and disabled than those who were forced to wait in line for their turn to receive conventional treatment. Finally, Trinh and her colleagues have evidence to show that acupuncture outperforms placebo treatment for pain relief during short-term follow-ups.

 Key words:  Neck painacupuncture

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