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National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

NCCAM Clinical Digest

Chronic Pain and Complementary Health Practices—Neck Pain :
What the Science Says

July 2012

Spinal Manipulation and Acupuncture for Neck Pain

Results of research on spinal manipulation and acupuncture for chronic neck pain are mixed.

Scientific Evidence

  • Reviews of research on manual therapies (primarily manipulation or mobilization) and acupuncture for chronic neck pain have found mixed evidence regarding potential benefits and have emphasized the need for additional research.
  • One review noted that clinical guidelines often endorse the use of manual therapies for neck pain, although there is no overall consensus on the status of these therapies.

Safety

  • Side effects from spinal manipulation can include temporary headaches, tiredness, or discomfort in the parts of the body that were treated. Although there have been rare reports of serious complications such as stroke, a large 2009 study did not find a relationship between spinal manipulation and vertebrobasilar artery stroke, which involves the arteries that supply blood to the back of the brain. Safety remains an important part of ongoing research.
  • Acupuncture is considered safe when performed by a qualified and competent practitioner using sterile needles. Few complications have been reported. Serious adverse events related to acupuncture are rare, but include infections and punctured organs.

NCCAM Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, DHHS. NCCAM Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on CAM, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCAM-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at nccam.nih.gov. NCCAM is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

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