Public Release: 

Acupuncture and Alexander Technique ease chronic neck pain better than usual care

American College of Physicians

1. Both acupuncture and Alexander Technique prove effective for long-term relief of chronic neck pain

Abstract: http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/M15-0667

Free summary: http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/P15-9033

URL live when embargo lifts

In a randomized, controlled trial, both acupuncture and the Alexander Technique led to long-term significant reductions in neck pain and associated disability compared with usual care alone. The study is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Chronic neck pain is a leading cause of disability. Usual care for neck pain generally consists of prescribed medications and visits to physical therapists and other health care professionals. In addition, persons with chronic neck pain often seek complimentary care to manage their condition, such as acupuncture or the Alexander Technique. Acupuncture is a procedure in which patients have thin needles inserted into specific points on the body to relieve pain and the Alexander Technique is an educational process that teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscular and mental tension in everyday activities.

Researchers sought to determine the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture or Alexander Technique lessons compared with usual care for persons with chronic, nonspecific neck pain. Patients were randomly assigned to 12 acupuncture sessions or 20 one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons plus usual care, or usual care only. Neck pain was assessed by the Northwick Park Questionnaire (NPQ) at 3, 6, and 12 months.

The researchers found that acupuncture and the Alexander Technique lessons both led to a significant reduction in neck pain at 12 months compared with usual care alone. Both interventions had a high rate of acceptability, and greater adherence was associated with better pain outcomes. Over time, both interventions resulted in a greater increase in self-efficacy than did usual care, and these improvements were associated with better NPQ outcomes.

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Note: For an embargoed PDF, please contact Cara Graeff. To speak with the lead author, Dr. Hugh MacPherson, please contact David Garner at david.garner@york.ac.uk or +44 (0) 1904 322153.

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