Acupuncture for Upper-Extremity
Rehabilitation in Chronic Stroke:
A Randomized Sham-Controlled Study

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2005 (Dec); 86 (12): 22482255

Peter M. Wayne, PhD, David E. Krebs, PhD, Eric A. Macklin, PhD,
Rosa Schnyer, LicAc, Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD, Stephen W. Parker, MD,
Donna Moxley Scarborough, MS, Chris A. McGibbon, PhD,
Judith D. Schaechter, PhD, Joel Stein, MD, William B. Stason, MD

Research Department,
New England School of Acupuncture,
Watertown, MA 02472, USA.

Objective:   To compare the effects of traditional Chinese acupuncture with sham acupuncture on upper-extremity (UE) function and quality of life (QOL) in patients with chronic hemiparesis from stroke.

Design:   A prospective, sham-controlled, randomized controlled trial (RCT).

Setting:   Patients recruited through a hospital stroke rehabilitation program.

Participants:   Thirty-three subjects who incurred a stroke 0.8 to 24 years previously and had moderate to severe UE functional impairment.

Interventions:   Active acupuncture tailored to traditional Chinese medicine diagnoses, including electroacupuncture, or sham acupuncture. Up to 20 treatment sessions (mean, 16.9) over a mean of 10.5 weeks.

Main Outcome Measures:   UE motor function, spasticity, grip strength, range of motion (ROM), activities of daily living, QOL, and mood. All outcomes were measured at baseline and after treatment.

Results:   Intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses found no statistically significant differences in outcomes between active and sham acupuncture groups. Analyses of protocol-compliant subjects revealed significant improvement in wrist spasticity (P<.01) and both wrist (P<.01) and shoulder (P<.01) ROM in the active acupuncture group, and improvement trends in UE motor function (P=.09) and digit ROM (P=.06).

Conclusions:   Based on ITT analyses, we conclude that acupuncture does not improve UE function or QOL in patients with chronic stroke symptoms. However, gains in UE function observed in protocol-compliant subjects suggest traditional Chinese acupuncture may help patients with chronic stroke symptoms. These results must be interpreted cautiously because of small sample sizes and multiple, unadjusted, post hoc comparisons. A larger, more definitive RCT using a similar design is feasible and warranted.


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