Lifestyle Advice and Self-Care Integral to Acupuncture Treatment for Patients with Chronic Neck Pain: Secondary Analysis of Outcomes Within a Randomized Controlled Trial

Hugh MacPherson, Ben Elliot, Ann Hopton, Harriet Lansdown, Stephen Birch, Catherine Hewitt

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BACKGROUND: Lifestyle advice is widely considered as an integral component of acupuncture treatment. However, it is unclear whether lifestyle advice and related self-care are important for sustaining benefit over the longer term. In a novel secondary analysis of trial data, this paper explores the nature and impact of acupuncture-related diagnosis, and associated lifestyle advice and self-care, in patients with chronic neck pain.

DESIGN: In a three-arm, randomized, controlled multicenter trial with 12 months of follow-up, a total of 517 patients with chronic neck pain were randomized in equal proportions to acupuncture, Alexander technique, or usual care alone.

METHODS: For each acupuncture patient, practitioners reported treatment components that included an acupuncture-related diagnosis and provision of associated lifestyle advice. Patients reported at baseline, 3, 6, and 12 months on variables related to treatment, which included aspects of self-care, self-efficacy, and lifestyle advice acted upon, as well as pain and disability scores. Congruence between practitioner advice and patient take-up was assessed using chi-squared test. Impact of lifestyle advice and self-efficacy on outcome was evaluated using regression models.

RESULTS: Among patients randomized to acupuncture, the most common diagnostic framework involved the Zang-Fu syndromes for 139/160 (87%) patients. Lifestyle advice was provided by practitioners to 134/160 (84%) of patients, most commonly related to exercise, relaxation, diet, rest, and work. Significant congruence with patient take-up was found for diet, rest, and work. Moreover, patients in the acupuncture group improved their ability to use what they had learnt and increased their self-efficacy. In turn, these characteristics were associated with significant reductions in pain and disability scores at 12 months.

CONCLUSION: Acupuncture-related lifestyle advice helped patients improve the way they live and care for themselves and enhanced self-efficacy and ability to use what they had learnt. These changes were associated with reductions in pain and disability at 12 months.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-187
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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