Introduction: There is some evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture in chronic neck pain (CNP) treatment, but it remains unclear which acupuncture modes are most effective. Objective was to evaluate the effects of trigger point acupuncture on pain and quality of life (QOL) in CNP patients compared to three other acupuncture treatments (acupoints, non-trigger point and sham treatment).
Methods: Forty out-patients (29 women, 11 men; age range: 47-80 years) from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Meiji University of Oriental Medicine, with non-radiating CNP for at least 6 months and normal neurological examination were randomised to one of four groups over 13 weeks. Each group received two phases of acupuncture treatment with an interval between them. The acupoint group (standard acupuncture; SA, n=10) received treatment at traditional acupoints for neck pain, the trigger point (TrP, n=10) and non-trigger point (non-TrP, n=10) groups received treatment at tenderness points for the same muscle, while the other acupuncture group received sham treatments on the trigger point (SH, n=10). Outcome measures were pain intensity (visual analogue scale; VAS 0-100mm) and disease specific questionnaire (neck disability index; NDI, 60-point scale).
Results: After treatment, the TrP group reported less pain intensity and improved QOL compared to the SA or non-TrP group. There was significant reduction in pain intensity between the treatment and the interval for the TrP group (p<0.01, Dunnett's multiple test), but not for the SA or non-TrP group.
Conclusion: These results suggest that trigger point acupuncture therapy may be more effective on chronic neck pain in aged patients than the standard acupuncture therapy.