Context: Neck pain is a common phenomenon and affects a large segment of the population. Chronic neck pain, lasting more than 3 months, likely occurs in 10% - 30% of patients with acute neck pain and affects up to 288 million cases globally, carrying a significant cost in terms of quality of life, disability, and healthcare dollars. Here we review neck pain background, acupuncture and the evidence that exist to support acupuncture use in chronic neck pain.
Results: Neck pain not only affects quality of life directly, but also contributes to depression, job dissatisfaction and reduced productivity. Unfortunately, neck pain is strongly linked to office and computer work and is likely to continue increasing in prevalence. Traditional treatments, such as analgesics, physical therapy, exercise, and non-invasive therapy bring some relief, and invasive therapy is indicated if anatomical pathologies exist. Acupuncture is a form of integrative medicine, originally described and practiced in traditional Chinese medicine and now expanded to include methods including acupressure, dry needling, and others. Traditionally, it focused on restoring the patient's flow of Qi by puncturing specific points along the meridians. It has previously been shown to be effective in other forms of chronic pain and disability. Clinical trials studying acupuncture for neck pain have shown significant reduction in both pain and associated symptoms. These therapies are reviewed in this text.
Conclusions: Neck pain is a common and significant global problem. Acupuncture, dry needling, and cupping were all shown to be effective in alleviating pain both immediately after treatment, as well as provide long-lasting relief. These treatments are generally safe and inexpensive and should be considered as part of a multimodal approach for the treatment of neck pain. More head-to-head studies will provide better data to support a choice of a specific treatment over another.
Keywords: Alternative Medicine; Chinese Medicine; Chronic Pain; Disability; Integrative Medicine.
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