Chronic neck pain is a prevalent problem in general practice and conventional treatments have limited success. Patients are seeking acupuncture outside the NHS in increasing numbers, yet the current evidence on acupuncture for neck pain is inconclusive. As a result, there is a growing public and scientific imperative to know whether acupuncture is worth offering as a referral option in primary care. In this project, we plan to conduct an open pragmatic randomised controlled trial of acupuncture for patients with neck pain, evaluating the clinical and economic impact when it is provided as an adjunct to normal GP management. As well as informing decisions made by patients and general practitioners, the knowledge gained on cost-effectiveness will contribute to policy decisions on access to acupuncture within primary care. In this project Gemma Salter, an MRC funded MSc student at the University of York conducted a small pilot in which we recruited 24 patients and provided those randomised to acupuncture with 10 sessions of acupuncture. We have published a paper outlining the findings in the context of designing and conducting a large scale trial (Salter et al 2006).
Salter G, Roman M, MacPherson H. Acupuncture for chronic neck pain: a pilot for a randomised controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2006 Dec 9;7(1):99. [Full text]