‘The ‘ritual of acupuncture’ has a significant impact on the subjective improvement of chronic neck pain, but improvement with ritual-alone versions of placebo acupuncture is not maintained after treatment compared with treatment that pierces the skin.’

Four hundred patients with neck/ shoulder stiffness were randomly assigned to superficial penetrating needle treatment, skin-touch only placebo needle treatment, no-touch placebo needle treatment, or a no-treatment control by a group of Japanese researchers. For each treatment, one acupuncture needle was administered at Tianzhu BL-10, Jianjing GB-21, Jianwaishu SI-14, and Pohu BL-42 (in that order) on the side with greater stiffness. Patients rated the intensity of stiffness immediately and 24 hours after treatment. All treatments that received the ritual of acupuncture performed better than the no-treatment control. No-touch treatment significantly improved neck/shoulder stiffness, as did penetrating and skin-touch treatments at the time of treatment. However, the efficacy of no-touch treatment was not comparable to that of penetrating treatment one day later. The results indicated that acupuncture ritual has a significant impact on the subjective improvement in neck/shoulder stiffness, but piercing the skin adds further effect. (Acupuncture for Japanese Katakori (Chronic Neck Pain): A Randomised Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study. Medicina (Kaunas). 2023 Dec 9;59(12):2142).