Question:I've been getting acupuncture and biofeedback for a problem with chronic neck pain and trigger points in the muscles. I've heard they can permanently insert needles or something in trigger points so the person doesn't have to keep going back for therapy. Does this actually work?
Answer:You may be referring to a treatment called neuroreflexotherapy (NRT). Tiny staples are implanted in trigger points along the spine and in tender points in the ear. Trigger points are painful areas in the muscle that cause local and referred pain when pressed or stimulated.
Studies have shown that NRT actually works. Patients with neck pain seem to respond better than patients with low back pain. But despite its success, it is still only used in Spain where it was first developed. And even in Spain, it's been slow to catch on.
Researchers are studying this treatment tool to figure out which patients can benefit the most. There is a 10 to 15 per cent failure rate. It would be good to avoid using this treatment on patients who won't benefit. Finding predictive factors is the goal of current research.
So far it looks like the more chronic your pain is, the less likely you'll get results with this treatment. But that's not always true as some patients expected to fail (based on this criteria) actually got better.
NRT is not availble yet in the United States. Combining acupuncture with biofeedback such as you are doing is an acceptable alternative until further research can be completed.Francisco Kovas, MD, PhD, et al. Prognostic Factors for Neuroreflexotherapy in the Treatment of Subacute and Chronic Neck and Back Pain. In Spine. July 1, 2007. Vol. 32. No. 15. Pp. 1621-1628.
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