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Acupuncture (superficial dry-needling) as a treatment for chronic postherpetic neuralgia – a randomized clinical trial

Br J Pain. 2022 Feb;16(1):96-108. doi: 10.1177/20494637211023075. Epub 2021 Jun 13.


BACKGROUND: Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful condition where finding sufficient treatment poses a great challenge. Acupuncture is often used as an alternative treatment for these pains, yet no randomized trials, using a sham-placebo have been performed to confirm its effect. Our objective was to investigate the efficacy of acupuncture compared to sham-acupuncture when treating chronic postherpetic dermal pain.

METHODS: We performed a sham-controlled double-blinded randomized clinical trial (RCT) with two arms. The intervention group received superficial dry-needling, and the control group received sham acupuncture using blunted needles. Twenty-six patients received two treatments. They filled out questionnaires at baseline and 1 month after treatment: (1) average and maximum pain (Numeric Rating Scale), (2) neuropathic pain (Neuropathic Pain Scale Inventory) and (3) Quality of Life (QoL) (Short-form 36).

RESULTS: Thirteen patients were allocated to the intervention group and 15 to the control group. We did not detect any significant changes in levels of pain and neuropathic pain. One QoL parameter, regarding emotional problems, reached a level of statistical significance. The sham-blinding was successful. This is the first RCT on the effect of acupuncture (superficial dry-needling) on postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), using a sham procedure as control. We observed no significant changes or tendencies in the measured levels of pain. One QoL parameter had significant improvement in the intervention group compared to the control group.

CONCLUSION: In conclusion, acupuncture was not superior to treatment with sham acupuncture. Though individual patients may experience some pain relief from acupuncture, our results do not support the routine use of this type of acupuncture to treat PHN.

PMID:35111318 | PMC:PMC8801694 | DOI:10.1177/20494637211023075


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