Single-point acupuncture and physiotherapy for the treatment of painful shoulder: a multicentre randomized controlled trial

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2008 Jun;47(6):887-93. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ken040. Epub 2008 Apr 10.


Objective: Evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture associated with physiotherapy for patients with painful shoulder.

Methods: In a multicentre controlled randomized study, participants were recruited with a clinical diagnosis of unilateral subacromial syndrome from six rehabilitation medicine departments belonging to the Public Health System in two Spanish regions. All participants received 15 sessions of physiotherapy during the 3 weeks that the treatment lasted and were randomized to additionally receive, once a week, acupuncture or mock TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). The primary outcome measure was the change in the Constant-Murley Score (CMS) for functional assessment of the shoulder, at 4 weeks after randomization. This study is registered as an International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial, number ISRCTN28687220.

Results: A total of 425 patients were recruited. The mean score (s.d.) on the CMS had increased by 16.6 (15.6) points among the acupuncture group, compared with 10.6 (13.5) points in the control group, and the mean difference between the two groups was statistically significant (6.0 points; 95% CI 3.2, 8.8 points; P < 0.001). By the end of the treatment, 53% of the patients in the acupuncture group had decreased their consumption of analgesics, compared with a corresponding 30% among the control group (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Single-point acupuncture in association with physiotherapy improves shoulder function and alleviates pain, compared with physiotherapy as the sole treatment. This improvement is accompanied by a reduction in the consumption of analgesic medicaments.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points
  • Acupuncture Therapy / adverse effects
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Physical Therapy Modalities* / adverse effects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / therapy*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN28687220