Objectives: Chronic neck pain is a common problem and is treated using a variety of conservative treatments. This single-blind, randomized, sham-controlled trial investigated the value of adding electrical stimulation of acupuncture points on the wrist to a standardized program of neck exercises for chronic neck pain.
Methods: At initial recruitment 60 patients were randomly assigned to receive either active or sham electrical stimulation of acupuncture points on the wrist in addition to standardized neck exercise. Active or sham wrist acustimulation was given for 30 minutes 2 times/wk over a period of 4 weeks. A 30 minutes program of standardized neck exercises was also performed simultaneously.
Results: Forty-nine patients completed the study (22 active, 27 sham). Statistically significant improvements were found for acustimulation when compared with sham at immediate posttreatment and 1-month posttreatment for Numerical Rating Scale, Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire and Pain Self-Efficacy Questionnaire. In active and sham electrical stimulation group 38.9% and 8.3% of patients reported a reduction of Numerical Rating Scale >50% at 1-month posttreatment follow-up, respectively. All patients tolerated acustimulation and no adverse effects were reported.
Discussion: Electrical acustimulation of the wrist administered as two, 30 minutes sessions /wk added value to standardized neck exercise for chronic neck pain. A 4-week course of treatment produced effects lasting 1-month posttreatment.