Objective: This study aims to provide evidence regarding the clinical efficacy of abdominal acupuncture for neck pain.
Methods: This randomized, patient and assessor-blind, sham-controlled trial was conducted at a Chinese medicine center in Hong Kong between November 2014 and March 2016. A total of 154 eligible participants (age range, 18-65 years) with neck pain were randomly assigned to receive abdominal (n = 77) or non-penetrating sham abdominal (sham group; n = 77) acupuncture. Each participant was administered treatment over six sessions by Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioners, in accordance with a standardized protocol. The primary outcome was mean improvement in neck pain disability scores evaluated by the Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire (NPQ). Secondary outcomes included intensity of neck pain and health-related quality-of-life measures. The outcomes were assessed at baseline and at 2 and 6 weeks from baseline. Patients in the abdominal acupuncture group received additional follow-up evaluation at 14 weeks from baseline. Outcomes were evaluated by intention-to-treat analysis.
Results: All participants provided informed consent for treatment and follow-up evaluation. Patients who received abdominal acupuncture exhibited greater improvement in NPQ scores than those who received sham treatment at both 2 and 6 weeks from baseline (intergroup mean differences, -5.75; 95% confidence interval [CI], -9.48 to -2.03; P = 0.008 and -8.65; 95% CI, -12.13 to -5.16; P < 0.001, respectively). The improvement in NPQ scores in the abdominal acupuncture group was even more significant at 14 weeks from baseline. Patients in the abdominal acupuncture group also exhibited significantly greater improvements in intensity of neck pain and a few quality-of-life measures than those in the sham abdominal acupuncture group, without any serious adverse events.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that abdominal acupuncture is an effective alternative treatment for neck pain.
Trial registration: Chinese Clinical Trial Registry ChiCTR-TRC-14004932.