Give Acupuncture a Try for Neck Pain Relief

Is sitting all day at your desk becoming a real pain in the neck? Research may offer up a remedy: researchers have found that long-term use of two alternative therapies—acupuncture and the Alexander Technique—may each reduce neck pain when paired with physical therapy and medication, both of which are considered standard therapies typically prescribed for neck pain. While most have heard of acupuncture, an ancient practice that involves stimulating specific points on the body by inserting needles into the skin, many may be unfamiliar with the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is an educational method which focuses on body movements that minimize muscle strain, and thereby improves posture, coordination, balance, and stress. For the study, which was reported on in Time and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers recruited 517 people who had been experiencing neck pain for at least 3 months (with an average duration of 6 years). Participants were divided into three groups and were treated for a year: the first group was assigned to receive standard therapies plus twelve, 50-minute acupuncture treatments; the second group was assigned to receive standard therapies plus twenty, 30-minute Alexander Technique lessons; and the third group was assigned to receive only standard therapies. Participants completed a questionnaire assessing their neck pain at the beginning of the study, and then after 3, 6, and 12 months of treatment. At the end of the study, here is what the researchers discovered:

  • People receiving acupuncture or Alexander Technique lessons reported 31% to 32% less neck pain than they reported at the beginning of the study. On average this was about 4 percentage points less than people receiving standard therapies only.
  • After 6 months, people receiving acupuncture or Alexander Technique lessons had improvements in self-efficacy, which is the belief that one can make positive changes to one’s quality of life. This was associated with the neck pain reductions reported at the end of the study.

These findings suggest that acupuncture or the Alexander Technique may be beneficial for people with chronic neck pain, and joins other research that supports acupuncture’s role in pain reduction. The study’s findings also signal that self-efficacy may play a role in long-term pain reduction; however, more research is needed to determine whether acupuncture and the Alexander Technique can contribute to self-efficacy, and to better understand the relationship between self-efficacy and pain reduction. In the end, believing in yourself could be one aspect of pain management: if you’re confident you can manage your pain, you just might be able to!

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine

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