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Electrical Acustimulation of the Wrist for Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized, Sham-controlled Trial Using a Wrist-Ankle Acustimulation Device

Chan, Danny K. C. MSc*; Johnson, Mark I. PhD; Sun, Kai On MRCS, FFARCSI, FHKCA, FHKAM; Doble, Sharon Jayne MSc, RGN§; Jenkins, Susan MSc

The Clinical Journal of Pain: May 2009 - Volume 25 - Issue 4 - p 320-326
doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e318192ce39
Original Articles

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.

*Hong Kong Acupuncture and Physiotherapy Pain Center, Hong Kong SAR

Hong Kong Acupuncture and Physiotherapy Pain Center, Pain Centre, Consultant Anesthesiologist, Kwong Wah Hospital, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China

Hong Kong Acupuncture and Physiotherapy Pain Center, Faculty of Health, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds

Department of Anaesthetics and Intensive Care, School of Medicine

§Hong Kong Acupuncture and Physiotherapy Pain Center, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Reprints: Chan K. C. Danny, MSc, Hong Kong SAR, Room 1002, Onward Building, 528 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China (e-mail:

Received for publication June 12, 2007; revised September 8, 2008; accepted September 21, 2008

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.