New research shows acupuncture can help with long term or chronic neck pain
Chronic neck pain is a common condition in the adult population. As well as being painful and disabling, it is associated with significant costs to the individual, their families, the NHS and society in general. As more research into the effectiveness of interventions is needed, Arthritis Research UK funded the £720,000 ATLAS trial evaluating both Acupuncture and Alexander Technique for chronic neck pain. The results of this trial have now been published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine 1. This large-scale investigation found that the use of acupuncture can significantly relieve chronic neck pain.
The study recruited over 500 patients from GP practices in the North of England. Participants were randomly placed in three groups: one group was offered acupuncture based on traditional Chinese medical theory plus usual care; another received Alexander Technique plus usual care; and the third and final group received usual care alone. In all three groups, usual care over the 12 months included prescribed medication and visits to GPs, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals.
The research showed that at 12 months, pain was reduced by 32 per cent for those receiving acupuncture, (a 25 per cent reduction would be seen as clinically relevant). Patients were also found to be better able to cope or reduce their pain levels without resorting to medication. These results are particularly encouraging as the participants had suffered neck pain for an average of six years, but were still able to gain some relief from their acupuncture sessions.