Objectives: This study examines whether intensive acupuncture treatment can improve several social and psychological variables for women with chronic pain in the neck and shoulders, and whether possible effects are long-lasting. The effects on pain have been reported elsewhere.
Methods: Twenty-four female office workers (47 +/- 9 years old, mean +/- SD) who had had neck and shoulder pain for 12 +/- 9 years, were randomly assigned to a test group or a control group. Acupuncture was applied 10 times during three to four weeks either at presumed acupuncture points for pain (test group) or at sham points (control group). In addition, acupressure was given to patients between treatments, at either real or sham points. Questionnaires for social and psychological variables were completed before each treatment, just after the course, and six months and three years later.
Results: The pain-related activity impairment at work was significantly less in the test group than the controls by the end of treatment (P < 0.04). Also there were significant differences between the groups for quality of sleep, anxiety, depression and satisfaction with life (P < 0.05). At six months and three years follow ups the acupuncture group showed further improvements in most variables and was again significantly different from the control group.
Conclusion: Intensive acupuncture treatment may improve activity at work and several relevant social and psychological variables for women with chronic pain in the neck and shoulders. The effect may last for at least three years.