Patients with chronic neck and/or shoulder pain were sequentially allocated into two groups to be treated with acupuncture using the same needle positions and depth, but with varying time of stimulation. One group (15 patients) had treatment sessions lasting 20min, and the second group (13 patients) had treatment for only 5min. A visual analogue score (VAS) was used to measure the levels of pain before treatment, at the end of a ten week course of weekly acupuncture treatments and again after 6 months.
The results showed that patients in both groups had a good response, both short and long term, to acupuncture, and that there was no significant difference in benefit between the groups at the end of their course of treatment or after 6 months. However, this may not necessarily mean that the shorter time of stimulation can be used in preference to the more traditional longer treatment sessions, as there was an imbalance between groups in the pre-treatment VAS and the trial size was inadequate to give a reliable result.
There was good clinical tolerance and most patients were able to continue working during the course of treatment. There thus seems no benefit to be gained by advising patients to take sick leave during acupuncture treatment for neck and shoulder pain.
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