Acupuncture treatment of shoulder impingement syndrome: A randomized controlled trial

Complement Ther Med. 2016 Apr;25:92-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2016.01.003. Epub 2016 Jan 21.


Background: Shoulder pain or omalgia is one of the main types of osteoarticular pain that can be observed in every-day clinical practice, frequently causing significant functional impairment. The most common cause of shoulder pain is impingement syndrome.

Objective: To decrease the intensity of short- and mid-term pain in the injured shoulder by means of acupuncture.

Method: Randomized controlled trial with two groups of participants: one group received true acupuncture (TA) and the other received acupuncture at sham points (SA). The treatment was carried out over 4 weeks, with the participants receiving a session every week. The results were measured immediately after the treatment (T1) and 3 months later (T2). To evaluate the results, we used the 100 mm Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), and to assess the functionality of the shoulder we employed the UCLA questionnaire (0-35 points).

Results: A total of 68 participants were included in the analysis (TA, n=35; SA, n=33), with a mean age of 33.4 years (SD 12.53). We found significant differences in the analyzed results between the two groups, as we observed a decrease on the intensity of pain for the TA group of 44.13 mm at T1 (CI 95% 36.7; 51.5) and 87.58 mm at T2 (CI 95% 28.32; 46.81), while the decrease in the FA group was of 19.84 mm at T1 (CI 95% 12.2; 27.4) and 20 mm at T2 (CI 95% 10.9; 29.09). When the UCLA scores were analyzed, the results were clinically meaningful in support of TA in terms of functional assessment of the shoulder. No adverse effects were reported.

Conclusions: The use of acupuncture to treat impingement syndrome seems to be a safe and reliable technique to achieve clinically significant results and could be implemented in the therapy options offered by the health services.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Impingement syndrome; Rotator cuff tendinitis; Shoulder pain; Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / therapy*
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy