About 15% of adults experience neck pain at any one time. Prevalence of neck pain increases as one gets older and is more common in women than men. Spondylosis, or degeneration of the spine, is one reason for this, but neck pain usually comes from multiple factors . Neck pain can include pain in the neck itself, the upper back and shoulder girdle, as well as associated pain in the head, upper extremities, or the low back. Acupuncture has been shown in clinical trials to benefit acute and chronic neck pain long term. By relieving muscle tension and benefitting neck and shoulder posture, acupuncture relieves pain and decreases stress and degeneration of the neck to prevent recurrence. Furthermore, by taking into account emotional and systemic stresses to the microcirculation and nervous system, acupuncture treats the root of disorder, extending benefits well beyond common “band aid” treatments.
Acupuncture Research Demonstrates Effectiveness for Relief of Neck Pain
Dominik Irnich, MD states, “acupuncture is widespread in the world. Western medicine is wonderful and successful, but in many, many chronic conditions … there is a lack of success, and Eastern medicine methods may be the right choice. … [Our] study shows that acupuncture is more effective than one of the most customary treatments for chronic neck pain [that is, massage].” After one week and five treatments, those treated with acupuncture had a greater improvement in motion related neck pain compared with those treated with massage.1
A 2004 study published in the journal Pain followed patients for three years. The intensity of chronic neck and upper back 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 pre-treatment level.2
In a 2004 study of 51 patients, acupuncture was shown to benefit neck torsion caused by acute whiplash significantly better than either NSAIDs or physical therapy. They tested patients before and after acupuncture treatment, demonstrating immediate results, and over multiple visits, showing benefits in pain and dysfunction including range of motion and postural deviations are also long term.3
Acupuncture was determined to be effective for the treatment of cervical disc related pain going into the upper extremity both the long and short-term. The researchers discovered that acupuncture is “significantly more effective” than NSAIDs for the short-term relief of cervical disc related neck pain.4
Neck pain was also evaluated as part of a massive review of acupuncture efficacy published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012 including 29 trials and 17, 922 patients. Researchers found “acupuncture was superior to both sham and no-acupuncture control” for neck and back pain. This is particularly noteworthy because of its size and that the researchers established: “Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo.”5
Reviews for Acupuncture and Neck Pain at Midwest Specialty Acupuncture
1. He D, et al. Effect of acupuncture treatment on chronic neck and shoulder pain in sedentary female workers: a 6-month and 3-year follow-up study. Pain. 109 (2004) 299–307.
2. Irnich D, et al. Randomised trial of acupuncture compared with conventional massage and “sham” laser acupuncture for treatment of chronic neck pain. BMJ. 2001 Jun 30; 322(7302):1574-8.
3. Fattori B, et. Al. Acupuncture Treatment of Whiplash Injury. Int Tinnitus J. 2004;10(2):156-160.
4. Zencirci B, et. Al. Effectiveness of Acupuncture with NSAID Medication in the Management of Acute Discogenic Radicular Pain: A Randomised, Controlled Trial, J Anesthe Clinic Res 2012, 3:3.
5. Vickers AJ. Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Oct 22;172(19):1444-53.
Neck pain includes: cervical stenosis, herniated disc, whiplash, DJD, DDD, cervicalgia, sprain/strain, cervicogenic paresthesia and radiculopathy, torticollis, kyphosis, upper crossed syndrome, occipital headaches, cervicogenic headaches, thoracic/upper back pain, levator scapula pain and trapezius pain.