Background Acute torticollis is a common disease, causing severe discomfort and temporary inability to work. Medical treatment is not without side-effects. Acupuncture could be an interesting alternative.
Objectives Evaluate the immediate effect of acupuncture in the treatment of acute torticollis and compare this response to that obtained by medical treatment.
Methods It is a controlled randomized therapeutic test, carried out at the acupuncture department of the Internal Security Forces Hospital. Patients who consulted between October 2011 and March 2012 for a first fit of acute torticollis evolving for less than 48 hours were randomized into 2 groups of 20 patients each. Patients with symptomatic torticollis were excluded. Group 1 (G1) received acupuncture treatment alone. One to three sessions of needle acupuncture were performed according to the rules of traditional Chinese medicine. We used a single distal point, Houxi (IG.3). Group 2 (G2) was treated with analgesic, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing for 7 days. The assessment focused on the pain through visual analogical scale (VAS) and on the mobility of the cervical spine (Chin-sternum distance, chin-acromion distance, earlobe–acromion distance) at baseline, at the end of each acupuncture session for G1, the 7th day of medical treatment for G2 and 15 days after the end of treatment for both groups.
Results The patients’ average age was 34 years (12-57) with a female predominance (sex ratio 0.8). The character of the pain, according to the 8 rules of traditional Chinese medicine, was fullness type in 55% of cases, external type in 25% of cases and internal type as emotional response in 20% of cases. For each group, the decrease in mean VAS between the beginning and the end of treatment was statistically significant. Eighty percent of the patients in G1 were cured after one session of acupuncture. The comparison between the two groups showed a decrease in mean VAS greater for G1 with a statistically significant difference (p <0.05). Improvement in measurements was significant in the two groups except for the earlobe–acromion distance for G2. The result was better for G1 but without significant difference. No patient in G1 had to stop working while in G2 the sick leave averaged 2.4 days. No recurrence was observed 15 days after the end of treatment for either group. No adverse reactions were observed for G1. Digestive disorders were noticed in 10% in G2.
Conclusions Our results show that needle acupuncture is an effective and safe short term treatment for people with acute torticollis. It has beneficial effects on mobility and pain related to motion in those patients. It seems more effective than pharmacotherapy alone.
References Shigang H. Clinical observations on the treatment of 50 cases of stiff neck by acupuncture. J Trad Chin Med 1992;12:57-8.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared