Acupuncture, Neck Pain and Whiplash Injury
16 May 2008
(1) Acupuncture & neck pain. A study published in the British Medical Journal shows that acupuncture is an effective short term treatment for patients with chronic neck pain. A total of 177 patients with chronic neck pain were randomly allocated to five treatments of three different kinds over a three week period. 56 patients received needle acupuncture, 60 were given conventional massage, and 61 received "sham" laser acupuncture (a dummy procedure to provide a control group to compare with real acupuncture). The most commonly used points were Houxi SI-3, Tianzhu BL-10, Kunlun BL-60, Taichong LIV-3, Fengchi GB-20, Yanglingquan GB-34, Waiguan SJ-5, and the ear point "cervical spine." Active myofascial trigger points were located predominantly in the trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. One week after the end of treatment, the acupuncture group showed a significantly greater improvement in movement-related pain compared with the massage (although not compared with the sham laser acupuncture group). Differences between acupuncture and massage or sham laser were greater in the subgroup who had had pain for longer than five years and in patients with myofascial pain syndrome. The acupuncture group had the best results in most secondary outcome measures. However, after three months follow up, there were no significant differences in mobility and pain between the groups. This is consistent with the experience of most acupuncturists who would expect a longer period of treatment to consolidate the benefits gained in the treatment of most chronic conditions. (Randomised trial of acupuncture compared with conventional massage and "sham" laser acupuncture for treatment of chronic neck pain, Irnich et al, BMJ 2001;322:1574).
(2) Acupuncture & whiplash injury. A study has analysed postural changes after acupuncture treatment in a group of 15 patients with balance disorders caused by cervical torsion due to whiplash injury. The treatment consisted of 3 once-weekly sessions during which points Tianzhu BL-10 and Fengchi GB-20 were needled. Patients were given posturograhic evaluations before and just after treatment. 17 patients with the same symptoms, and treated by drugs and physiotherapy only, were used as a control. There was a significant difference in the two groups leading the authors of the study to advocate the efficacy of acupuncture for balance disorders due to cervical pathology. (Fattori B, Borsari C, Vannucci G, Casani A, Cristofani R, Bonuccelli L, Ghilardi PL, Acupuncture treatment for balance disorders following whiplash injury, Acupunct Electrother Res 1996 Jul-Dec;21(3-4):207-17).