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.