Largest clinical trial of acupuncture for shoulder pain finds evidence of efficacy

This is the largest study for acupuncture treatment of shoulder pain to date: 424 outpatients in a multi-center randomized clinical trial. Finding: acupuncture significantly improved shoulder pain and mobility, inlcuding:

65% response rate at 6 weeks compared with 24% with sham acupuncture and 37% with standard conservative orthopaedic treatment…Chinese acupuncture is an effective alternative to conventional orthopaedic treatment for CSP [chronic shoulder pain]


Of particular value is that this study compared “true” acupuncture vs. BOTH a standard treatment AND a “sham” acupuncture study arm. Many studies compare “true” acupuncture to sham OR standard treatment, but not both.


As a real-world clinicians and patients, studies that compare acupuncture vs. standard treatment are of much greater value, because they aid clinical decision-making. The decision constanly faced by clinicians and patients is not “should I recommend/get real vs. sham acupuncture,” but “should I recommend/get acupuncture vs. another (standard treatment).”


In sum, this study’s conclusions suggest that acupuncture is worthy of trying for shoulder pain as a FIRST-line treatment, before rather than after standard orthopedic treatment.