This study tested whether trigger point acupuncture (TrPA) is beneficial for office workers who have reduced job performance (presenteeism) due to chronic neck and shoulder pain (katakori).
A 4-week single-center randomized clinical trial was conducted on 20 eligible female office workers with chronic neck and shoulder pain of at least 3-month duration. The control group implemented only workplace-recommended presenteeism measures, whereas the intervention group received TrPA up to 4 times per month in addition to the presenteeism measures recommended by each workplace. The major outcome measure was the relative presenteeism score on the World Health Organization Health and Work Performance (WHO-HPQ). The secondary outcome measures were pain intensity (numerical rating scale), absolute presenteeism (WHO-HPQ), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; HADS), catastrophic thoughts related to pain (Pain Catastrophizing Scale; PCS), and sleep (Athens Insomnia Scale; AIS).
All 9 cases in the intervention group and 11 cases in the control group were analyzed. TrPA up to 4 times per month reduced the intensity of neck and shoulder pain by 20% (P < .01, d = 1.65) and improved labor productivity (relative presenteeism value) by 0.25 (P < .01, d = 1.33) compared with the control group over 1 month. No significant differences were observed between the 2 groups in terms of absolute presenteeism score, HADS, PCS, or AIS.
The authors concluded that these results suggest that regular intervention with TrPA may be effective in the relative presenteeism score before and after the intervention and the degree of neck and shoulder pain over 28 days compared with the control group.
Sure, TrPA may be effective.
But is it?
I thought the trial was aimed at answering that question!
But it didn’t!
Because, as we have discussed ad nauseam on this blog, the A+B versus B study design cannot answer it. On the contrary, it will always generate a positive result without determining whether the treatment or a nonspecific (placebo) effect caused the outcome (which, of course, is the reason why this study design is so popular in SCAM research).
In view of this, I suggest to re-formulate the conclusions as follows:
The study suggests that the researchers were ill-informed when designing it. Therefore, the findings show nothing of value.