Objective: This project was designed to test the feasibility and effectiveness of acupuncture therapy given in a group setting for chronic pain.
Design: Nonrandomized, repeated measures quasi-experimental trial.
Setting: Care was delivered in a primary care clinic waiting area after clinic hours.
Subjects: Included were primary care patients (≥18 years old) with chronic pain of the neck, back, shoulder, or osteoarthritis of any site of at least three months' duration.
Methods: Subjects received eight weekly acupuncture therapy sessions in a group setting. Acupuncture therapy included a combination of palpation, acupuncture needling, Tui na, Gua sha, and auricular treatment. Baseline pain levels were established in a two- to four-week run-in; assessment of the intervention impact on pain intensity, mood, and functional status were made at the end of the treatment period (eight weeks) and 16 weeks after completion of intervention (24 weeks).
Results: Of the total 113 participants recruited for the trial, 96 completed the 24-week protocol. We found a statistically and clinically significant decrease in pain severity, pain interference, and depression in our study population. There were no serious adverse events.
Conclusions: Acupuncture therapy offered in the group setting was effective in reducing pain severity, pain interference, and depression in patients with chronic neck, back, or shoulder pain or osteoarthritis. Benefit persisted through the 24-week measure despite no additional treatment. This finding has potentially important implications for improving access to effective acupuncture treatment for patients with limited financial resources.
Keywords: Acupuncture; chronic pain; complementary medicine.
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