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Acupuncture Better Than Massage for Neck Pain

According to a team of German and Swiss Researchers, acupuncture may be better at treating chronic neck pain than traditional massage by providing greater short-term pain relief and increased range of motion.

"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 Irnich of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany.

In the study, which involved almost 200 patients with complaints of chronic neck pain, Irnich and his colleagues evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture versus massage or ``sham'' laser acupuncture--a dummy procedure used for comparison. Each individual received a 30-minute treatment, five times a week for three weeks.

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. The differences were most distinct among those subjects who reported pain lasting more than five years and those with myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is muscle pain in specific areas of the neck that may be caused by physical or emotional tension.

In assessments one week after the last treatment, over half of those treated with acupuncture reported a more than 50% improvement in pain related to motion. Only about 32% of those treated with massage and slightly less than 25% of the comparison group reported similar reductions in motion-related pain.

For more information on this study, please reference the June 30th issue of the British Medical Journal (2001; 322:1574-1578). For more information on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, please contact Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at (800) 729-0941