Immediate effects of dry needling and acupuncture at distant points in chronic neck pain: results of a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled crossover trial

Pain. 2002 Sep;99(1-2):83-9. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(02)00062-3.


To evaluate immediate effects of two different modes of acupuncture on motion-related pain and cervical spine mobility in chronic neck pain patients compared to a sham procedure. Thirty-six patients with chronic neck pain and limited cervical spine mobility participated in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled crossover trial. Every patient was treated once with needle acupuncture at distant points, dry needling (DN) of local myofascial trigger points and sham laser acupuncture (Sham). Outcome measures were motion-related pain intensity (visual analogue scale, 0-100 mm) and range of motion (ROM). In addition, patients scored changes of general complaints using an 11-point verbal rating scale. Patients were assessed immediately before and after each treatment by an independent (blinded) investigator. Multivariate analysis was used to assess the effects of true acupuncture and needle site independently. For motion-related pain, use of acupuncture at non-local points reduced pain scores by about a third (11.2 mm; 95% CI 5.7, 16.7; P = 0.00006) compared to DN and sham. DN led to an estimated reduction in pain of 1.0 mm (95% CI -4.5, 6.5; P = 0.7). Use of DN slightly improved ROM by 1.7 degrees (95% CI 0.2, 3.2; P = 0.032) with use of non-local points improving ROM by an additional 1.9 degrees (95% CI 0.3, 3.4; P = 0.016). For patient assessment of change, non-local acupuncture was significantly superior both to Sham (1.7 points; 95% CI 1.0, 2.5; P = 0.0001) and DN (1.5 points; 95% CI 0.4, 2.6; P = 0.008) but there was no difference between DN and Sham (0.1 point; 95% CI -1.0, 1.2; P = 0.8). Acupuncture is superior to Sham in improving motion-related pain and ROM following a single session of treatment in chronic neck pain patients. Acupuncture at distant points improves ROM more than DN; DN was ineffective for motion-related pain.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Analgesia*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Facial Neuralgia / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome