Background Shoulder pain (SP) is one of the most common musculoskeletal pains in the community. The conventional treatments for this affection include pharmacotherapy, physiotherapy and exercise. However, these options aren't satisfactory and patients seek complementary and alternative medicine, including acupuncture, for solution.
Objectives The purpose of this study is to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for SP and define some predictors of treatment response.
Methods This is a prospective open study of 30 patients, conducted in the first half of the year 2006 in the acupuncture's ward. Patients included in this study were suffering from shoulder pain associated with rotator cuff tendinopathy. The intensity of SP was superior to 40 mm on Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). The last glucocorticoid injection had to be given at least before 6 months. Evaluation of the efficacy was based on 2 criteria: The main one is intensity of the pain using a 100-mm VAS; the second is shoulder mobility evaluated using activities of daily living questionnaire.
Results In this series, there is a clear preponderance of females with sex ratio of 0.42. The mean age was 54 [38, 73] years. The average duration of SP was 3.8 [0.6, 14] years. 50% of patients received a medical treatment. The mean VAS pain score at baseline was 71.3 [50, 90] mm. It reached 28.3±13.6 mm after 10 acupuncture sessions. A decrease in VAS pain scores, statistically significant (p<0.001), was observed on the sixth session (-27.3%) and tenth session (-43%). The muscle stiffness was reduced for all patients. The improvement in shoulder function at the tenth acupuncture session reached 44%. At the end of the study, only 10% of patients still taking drugs. The response of acupuncture therapy was variable. It changed according to patients' age and symptoms duration. We noted that a good response was statistically correlated with younger age and recent pain. Otherwise, there was no correlation with sex and patients' conviction.
Conclusions This study provides additional data on the potential role of acupuncture in the treatment of SP. Acupuncture is beneficial and effective for relieving pain and improving shoulder function. It must be used precociously to have better response. It can be a good alternative, especially, for patients developing adverse effects related to drugs. A large scale rigorously designed study is warranted to confirm the current results.
Amanda Tiffany Lathia, S.M. Jung, and Lan X. Chen. Efficacy of Acupuncture as a Treatment for Chronic Shoulder Pain.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. June 2009, 15(6): 613-618.
Molsberger AF, Schneider T, Gotthardt H, Drabik A. German Randomized Acupuncture Trial for chronic shoulder pain (GRASP) - a pragmatic, controlled, patient-blinded, multi-centre trial in an outpatient care environment. J Pain 2010;151(1):146-154
Disclosure of Interest None declared