Study: Acupuncture Better than Massage for Chronic Neck Pain
For most people, a quick visit to a massage therapist has been traditionally considered the best way to provide temporary relief of chronic neck pain.
The results of a randomized trial of neck pain patients published in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal, however, appear to suggest otherwise. According to a team of German and Swedish researchers, acupuncture provides greater short-term pain relief and increases range of motion better than traditional massage techniques.
“Our study shows that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for chronic neck pain, if the objective is to relieve pain and to improve mobility of the cervical spine,” said Dr. Dominik Irnick of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany, one of three settings in which the trial was conducted.
In the study, 177 patients with chronic neck pain were randomly assigned to an acupuncture, massage or placebo group. Patients in the acupuncture group were treated at local, remote and ear acupoints, along with myofascial trigger points. The most commonly used points were SI3; UB10; UB60; Liv3; GB20; GB34; TE5; and the “cervical spine” ear point. In the massage group, patients were treated with a variety of Western techniques, including effleurage; petrissage; friction; tapotement and vibration. In the placebo group, sham laser acupuncture was performed using an inactivated laser pen on the same points as patients in the acupuncture group.
A blinded observer assessed the effectiveness of the treatments at six episodes during the course of care: at baseline; immediately after the first treatment; three days after the first treatment; immediately after the last treatment; one week after the last treatment; and three months after treatment. Researchers used a 100-point visual analogue scale to measure the amount of pain a patient suffered related to head movement, along with range of motion and tolerance to pressure. Spontaneous pain, motion-related pain and global pain were also documented, and a survey was administered to each patient to assess their quality of life.
Individuals treated with acupuncture reported greater reductions in pain both immediately after the first and last treatments, and one week after the last treatment, than those treated with massage. Patients in the acupuncture group improved an average of 24.22 points on pain related to motion one week after treatment, compared to only 7.89 points for massage patients. These differences were even more distinct among patients with myofascial pain syndrome (a condition characterized by muscle pain in specific areas of the neck that may be caused by physical or emotional tension) and patients who reported pain lasting more than five years.
Table I: Improvement of pain related to motion one week after treatment compared with baseline measurements.
Patient Group Mean improvement on visual analogue scale
Acupuncture (n = 51) 24.22 points
Massage (n = 57) 7.89
Patients with myofascial pain syndrome
Acupuncture (n=34) 30.05 points
Massage (n=43) 7.23
Patients with pain >5 years
Acupuncture (n=23) 31.87 points
Massage (n=23) 13.52
Similar results were seen in related measurements. For example, in assessments taken one week after the last treatment, over half of those treated with acupuncture (29/51) reported an improvement of more than 50% in pain related to motion, compared to only 32% of patients treated with massage and less than 25% of patients in the sham acupuncture group. The researchers also found that “significantly more patients in the acupuncture group considered their pain (spontaneous, motion-related) and global complaints improved” compared to patients given massage, with some of these effects lasting as long as three months after treatment was performed.
Table II: Outcomes in chronic neck pain patients, acupuncture vs. massage.
Measurement Acupuncture Massage
Increased range of motion (in degrees)
Immediately after last treatment 19.6 6.2
One week after last treatment 19.8 5.1
Three months after treatment 8.9 5.5
Pain related to direction (improvement on visual analogue scale, 0-100 points)
Immediately after last treatment 16.9 5.6
One week after last treatment 17.3 3.1
Three months after treatment 15.0 8.1
Improvement in instances of spontaneous pain
One week after last treatment 35/51 (69%) 28/56 (50%)
Three months after treatment 33/47 (70%) 25/57 (44%)
Improvement in instances of global pain
One week after last treatment 46/52 (88%) 32/58 (55%)
Three months after treatment 39/48 (81%) 32/57 (56%)
The authors of the study were rather forthright in their praise of acupuncture. “Our results show that acupuncture is a safe form of treatment for people with chronic neck pain, and offers clear clinical advantages over conventional massage in the reduction of pain and improvement of mobility,” they wrote. In particular, it was suggested that acupuncture could be beneficial in treating patients with myofascial pain syndrome, which is estimated to be present in up to 90% of people with chronic neck pain and can be easily recognized through a patient’s case history or a detailed physical exam.
The scientists were less kind in their opinion of massage therapy. Even though it is one of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain – in fact, 77% of the study participants had used massage for pain relief before taking part in the trial – the authors concluded that “conventional massage had only a weak effect” in treating the condition effectively.
Some concerns were raised because the number of treatments (five) given was relatively small, and that they were delivered in a short amount of time. The scientists explained this issue by stating that they “did not want to treat patients with chronic pain with placebo for longer (than five sessions) for ethical reasons.” They also recommended that future research be conducted to determine the optimum number of treatments for the management of these patients.
“Acupuncture can be a safe form of treatment for patients with chronic neck pain if the objective is to obtain relief from pain related to motion and to improve cervical mobility,” the researchers concluded. “As neck pain may be a chronic condition with considerable socioeconomic impact, single forms of treatment may be inadequate, and acupuncture merits consideration.”
Irnich D, Behrens N, Molzen H, et al. Randomised trial of acupuncture compared with conventional massage and “sham” laser acupuncture for treatment of chronic neck pain. British Medical Journal June 30, 2001;322:1-6.
Huggins C. Acupuncture better than massage for neck pain. Reuters Health, June 29, 2001.
Woznicki K. Acupuncture better than massage. United Press International, June 28, 2001.
Resource: Acupuncture Today
September, 2001, Vol. 02, Issue 09
6 Food Tips for Autoimmune Disorders
A class of plant chemicals known as bioflavinoids has been found to dramatically reduce inflammation and improve symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders.
Tea: Both green and black tea contain the flavenoids, catechins and theaflavins, which are beneficial in autoimmune disease.
Apples: Apples, contain the flavanoid, quercetin that can reduce allergic reactions and decrease inflammation. Quercetin occurs naturally in certain foods, such as apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea.
Carrots: Carotenoids are a family of plant pigments that include beta-carotene. A lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation. Good sources of carotenoids include apricots, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.
Ginger: Recent studies show that ginger reduces inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandin and suppresses the immune system’s production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, reducing disease severity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3: Omega-3 essential fatty acids can counter the formation of chemicals that cause inflammation. Good natural sources include flaxseed oil and salmon.
Fiber: A healthy and active colon can decrease food sensitivity, which, in turn, can lighten the burden on your immune system. For maximum autoimmune health, increase the fiber in your diet.
Alleviate Arthritis Pain
Arthritis isn’t just one disease, but a complex disorder comprised of more than 100 distinict condictions that can affect people at any stage of life.
Two of the most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While these two forms of arthritis have very different causes, risk factors and effects on the body, they often share a common symptom – persistent joint pain.
For many people, arthritis pain and inflammation cannot be avoided as the body ages. In fact, most people over the age of 50 show some signs of arthritis as joints naturally degenerate over time. Fortunately, arthritis can often be managed with acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Arthritis with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
According to Oriental medical theory, arthritis arises when the cyclical flow of Qi (energy) in the meridians becomes blocked resulting in pain, soreness, numbness and stiffness. This blockage is called “bi syndrome” and is associated with “bi”type pain.
Studies of Acupuncture for Arthritis
Several studies have shown that acupuncture can help people with arthritis and related auto-immune diseases.
Scientists found that acupuncture can reduce pain and improve mobility in arthritis patients by 40 percent based on results from a major clinical trial that investigated the ancient Chinese needle treatment. All patients had suffered significant pain in their knee that month before joining the trial, but had never experienced acupuncture. By the eighth week, patients receiving genuine acupuncture treatments showed a significant increase in function compared with both the “placebo” treatment and self-help groups. By week 14, they were also experiencing a significant decrease in pain.
In a German study, 3,500 people with osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee received 15 sessions of acupuncture combined with their usual medical care. The results showed that the patients that received acupuncture had less pain and stiffness, improved joint function and better quality of life than their counterparts who had routine care alone. The improvements occurred immediately after completing a three-month course of acupuncture and lasted for at least antoher three months, indiciating osteoarthritis is among conditions effectively treated with acupuncture.
Source by: Acufinder.com
Headaches are extremely common. While everyone experiences an occasional headache, statistics show that 1 out of 6 people suffer from chronic headaches.
Acupuncture can effectively relieve headaches, as well as treat their underlying causes. In fact, headaches are one of the conditions most commonly seen in acupuncture clinics today. It can offer powerful relief without the side effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause.
Headaches that can be treated with acupuncture include migraines, tension headaches, headaches occurring around the menstrual cycle, sinus headaches and stress-related headaches.
How Acupuncture Treats Headaches
Many variables are looked at in order to properly diagnose and successfully treat headaches. Each individual is treated differently depending on their unique symptoms.
Some of the factors that will determine what acupuncture points and other treatment techniques are used include: what triggers the headaches; the location, frequency and intensity of the headaches; the quality of the pain; the time of day that they occur; what helps the headaches and what makes them worse.
Types of Headaches
When treating with acupuncture, headaches are often classified by their location. This is only a broad guideline which needs to be further refined and integrated into the treatment for each individual, but this shows meridians and patterns that affect each area of the head.
Top of Head: Liver Meridian (Liver Blood Deficiency, Liver Yang Rising)
Sides of Head: Gall-Bladder Meridian (Liver-Yang, Liver-Fire or Liver-Wind Rising)
One Side Only: Gall-Bladder Meridian (Liver-Yang or Liver-Fire Rising)
Temples: Gall-Bladder Meridian (Liver-Yang, Liver-Fire or Liver-Wind Rising)
Behind the Eyes: Liver Meridian (Liver Blood Deficiency, Liver Yang Rising)
Forehead: Stomach Meridian (Stomach Deficiency or Stomach-Heat)
Back of Head (Occipital): Bladder Meridian (Kidney Deficiency or Damp-Heat in the Bladder) or External Wind
Whole Head: Kidney-Essence Deficiency or External Wind
Acupuncture can significantly relieve headaches and is an important component to managing recurring headaches and migraines. If you have any questions, please call for a consultation.
Two separate systematic reviews by Cochrane Researchers show that acupuncture is an effective treatment for prevention of headaches and migraines.
In each study, the researchers tried to establish whether acupuncture could reduce the occurrence of headaches. One study focused on mild to moderate but frequent “tension-type” headaches, whilst the other focused on more severe but less frequent headaches usually termed migraines. Together the two studies included 33 trials, involving a total of 6,736 patients.
Overall, following a course of at least eight weeks, patients treated with acupuncture suffered fewer headaches compared to those who were given only pain killers. In the migraine study, acupuncture was superior to proven prophylactic drug treatments.
In one specific study involving 270 patients, acupuncture cut tension headache rates almost in half. Researchers divided the patients who reported similarly severe tension headaches into three groups for the study. Over the project’s eight-week period, one group received traditional acupuncture, one received only minimal acupuncture (needles inserted at non-acupuncture points, and at only shallow levels), and the third group received no treatment.
Those receiving the traditional acupuncture reported headache rates of nearly half that of those who received no treatments, suffering 7 fewer days of headaches. The minimal acupuncture group suffered 6.6 fewer days, and the non-acupuncture group suffered 1.5 fewer days. When they received acupuncture after the main study period, the “no treatment” group also reported significantly fewer headache days.
The improvements continued for months after the treatments were concluded, rising slightly as time went on.
British Medical Journal, July 2005
Acupuncture for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007587 DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007587
Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2009, Issue 1. Art.No.: CD001218 DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub2
Diet- Eat regular meals at regular times to avoid your blood sugar from falling too quickly. Also, avoid foods and drinks that are known to trigger headache attacks including processed meats, aged cheese, alcohol, and foods and beverages that contain aspartame.
Sleep- Maintain a regular sleeping schedule, including weekends and vacations.
Stress- Stress is one of the most common headache and migraine triggers. Implement stress reduction techniques into your daily life.
Exercise- Exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins, which are brain chemicals that improve mood and relieve stress, which are known headache triggers.