Tension neck syndrome treated by acupuncture combined with physiotherapy: a comparative clinical trial (pilot study)

Complement Ther Med. 2008 Oct;16(5):268-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2008.02.006.


Objective: To evaluate the effect of acupuncture combined with physiotherapy in comparison with acupuncture and physiotherapy performed alone in different parameters; pain intensity, muscle tension, functional disability and muscle strength in the treatment of tension neck syndrome (TNS).

Design: A prospective, comparative clinical trial.

Setting: Acupuncture and Rehabilitation Department.

Background: TNS can occur in computer users. Acupuncture has been one alternative treatment in physiotherapeutic rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders.

Subjects: Forty-six patients with TNS.

Interventions: Patients were allocated into three groups: Group-1 received physiotherapy (therapeutic exercises) combined with acupuncture; Group-2, acupuncture alone, and Group-3, physiotherapy alone; over a period of 10 weeks, with one or two sessions weekly.

Outcome assessment: All patients had completed the protocols and were assessed using a visual analogue scale for pain intensity (VASpain) and muscle tension (VASmt), the Neck Disability Index: Brazilian Portuguese version for functional disability, and the cranio-cervical Flexion Test for isometric neck muscle strength (INMS); in the periods before treatment (baseline), after 10 weeks of treatment, and after 6 months of follow-up.

Results: All groups showed significant improvement (p < 0.001) in these parameters after 10 weeks of treatment and after 6 months of follow-up. Group-1 was superior to Group-3 in pain and functional disability improvements (p<0.05); and Group-1 was superior to both Group-2 (p < 0.01) and Group-3 (p < 0.05) in INMS. After 6 months of follow-up, the improvements of all groups were maintained (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: The data suggested that acupuncture effect may facilitate and/or enhance physiotherapy performance in musculoskeletal rehabilitation for tension neck syndrome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / classification
  • Neck Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Pain Measurement / classification
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Treatment Outcome