Sinew Acupuncture for Neck Pain: Randomized Controlled Trial


The study aims to examine the efficacy and safety of sinew acupuncture for chronic mechanical neck pain (CMNP).

Full Title of Study: “Sinew Acupuncture for Chronic Mechanical Neck Pain: a Randomized Assessor-blind Sham-controlled Trial”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Single (Participant)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: December 2019

Detailed Description


Sinew acupuncture is a superficial needling technique with the advantage of minimal pain, feasible manipulation, and no apparent adverse effects. The proposal aims to examine the efficacy and safety of sinew acupuncture for chronic mechanical neck pain (CMNP).

Hypothesis to be tested:

Sinew acupuncture can reduce pain intensity, and improve neck pain disability and health-related quality of life without significant side effects for CMNP subjects compared to a sham acupuncture treatment.


A randomized, subject- and assessor-blind, sham acupuncture-controlled clinical trial


Subjects (N=130) will be randomized into sinew acupuncture or sham acupuncture group (in 1:1 ratio).

Study instrument:

Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire (NPQ) and Short Form-36 (SF-36)


Sinew acupuncture group will receive five sessions of needling in two weeks. Sham group will receive the non-invasive treatment with the same procedures. All subjects are followed up for 4 weeks.

Main outcome measures:

VAS for neck pain intensity at week 3 serves as the primary outcome. VAS at other time points, NPQ score and SF-36 at week 1, 2, 3, and 6, and adverse events are analyzed as the secondary outcomes.

Data analysis:

Analysis will be on the 'intention to treat' principle. T-test and mixed-effect model analysis will be used to measure primary and secondary outcomes respectively.

Expected results:

Five sessions of sinew acupuncture treatment can significantly reduce neck pain intensity, and improve neck pain disability and quality of life without obvious side effects.


  • Device: Sinew acupuncture
    • The subject is asked to be on sitting posture. The skin around the needling points is disinfected with a 75% alcohol swap. A tube-guided, sterilized, disposal needle is then inserted (at a small angle to the skin) into the acupoint at 0.5-1 cun (depending on point location and body size of the subject). No needle sensation (deqi sensation) is required. A piece of surgical adhesive tape will be applied to the needle immediately after insertion.
  • Device: Sham acupuncture
    • The procedure in the sham acupuncture group will be as similar to that of the acupuncture group as possible. In the sham acupuncture group, however, a mock plastic needle guiding tube is tapped on the surface of each acupoint (Ashi point and traditional acupoints) to produce some discernible sensation. A piece of adhesive tape is immediately applied to fix the needle on the dermal surface tapped, without needle insertion. In addition, a plastic tube-guided needle is superficially inserted at the sham point at less than 5mm in depth.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Sinew acupuncture
    • Sinew acupuncture
  • Sham Comparator: Sham acupuncture
    • Sham acupuncture

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Visual Analog Scale (VAS)
    • Time Frame: week 3
    • VAS at week 3

Secondary Measures

  • VAS
    • Time Frame: week 1, 2 & 6
    • VAS at week 1, 2 & 6
  • Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire (NPQ)
    • Time Frame: week 1, 2, 3 & 6
    • NPQ at week 1, 2, 3 & 6
  • Short Form-36 (SF-36)
    • Time Frame: week 1, 2, 3 & 6
    • SF-36 at week 1, 2, 3 & 6

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • (1) aged 18 years or above; (2) able to read and write Chinese; (3) the pain is located between the neck and shoulder regions and movement or palpation of the cervical region provokes the symptoms (18); (4) the pain has persisted for more than 3 months; (5) VAS (0 to 100 mm) pain score is ≥30 mm at baseline assessment; (6) no treatments (Chinese medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion, physiotherapies, medications, etc) intended for pain management have been received within the preceding two weeks.

Exclusion Criteria

  • (1) a history of fracture or surgery to the neck; (2) malignant tumor; (3) cervical congenital abnormality; (4) a severe psychiatric illness; (5) needle phobia; (6) acupuncture treatment in the preceding 3 months, and (7) other acupuncture contraindications as indicated in Hospital Authority Guideline on Safety in Acupuncture for Chinese Medicine Practitioners (Quality and Risk Sub-Committee, Hospital Authority, 2010).

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • The University of Hong Kong
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Haiyong Chen, PhD, Principal Investigator, The University of Hong Kong
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Haiyong Chen, PhD, 39176413,

Clinical trials entries are delivered from the US National Institutes of Health and are not reviewed separately by this site. Please see the identifier information above for retrieving further details from the government database.

At, we keep tabs on over 200,000 clinical trials in the US and abroad, using medical data supplied directly by the US National Institutes of Health. Please see the About and Contact page for details.