National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Chronic Pain and Complementary Health Practices—Neck Pain
What the Science Says
Spinal Manipulation and Acupuncture for Neck Pain
- 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.
- 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.
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