Objective: To establish whether there is evidence for or against the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of neck pain.
Methods: A systematic literature review was undertaken of studies that compared needle or laser acupuncture with a control procedure for the treatment of neck pain. Two reviewers independently extracted data concerning study methods, quality and outcome.
Results: Overall, the outcomes of 14 randomized controlled trials were equally balanced between positive and negative. Acupuncture was superior to waiting-list in one study, and either equal or superior to physiotherapy in three studies. Needle acupuncture was not superior to indistinguishable sham control in four out of five studies. Of the eight high-quality trials, five were negative.
Conclusions: In conclusion, the hypothesis that acupuncture is efficacious in the treatment of neck pain is not based on the available evidence from sound clinical trials. Further studies are justified.