Background: Periosteal acupuncture has shown promising results in clinical practice. The aim was to compare three patient groups: one with intramuscular acupuncture, one with periosteal acupuncture, and a third information control group, with respect to clinically relevant pain relief, physical functioning and intake of analgesics in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain in the neck or low back or both. We reported the psychological changes in these patients in a previous issue of this journal.
Methods: 144 consecutive patients with nociceptive pain for >3 months, aged 18-70 years were alternately allocated to: intramuscular acupuncture (n=59); periosteal acupuncture (n=55); or control group with information only (n=30). All patients were encouraged to stay active. Acupuncture was administered with eight treatments during five weeks, and two optional additional treatments after one month. Pain was estimated with a daily VAS in a pain diary and with an average weekly pain score. Clinically relevant pain relief was defined as at least a 30% decrease from the initial value. Physical functioning was evaluated with Disability Rating Index. All estimations were performed prior to treatment, one week after, and one, three and six months after treatment.
Results: There were no differences between the effects of the two acupuncture methods. There were differences between each of the two acupuncture groups compared with the control group on all test occasions up to one month after treatment with respect to the pain diary and one week after treatment with respect to pain last week (P<0.05). Pain relief as measured by a pain diary was obtained in 29 patients in the intramuscular acupuncture group, 25 in the periosteal acupuncture group, and 5 patients in the control group. Six months after treatment, 46% of the intramuscular acupuncture patients and 45% of the periosteal acupuncture patients had obtained pain relief in terms of the pain diary. The corresponding figure for pain last week was 29% in each group.
Conclusions: Periosteal pecking was no more effective than standard intramuscular acupuncture, but both were more effective than information only.