New research on shoulder pain from a randomized, blinded, patient-blinded, multi-center study shows that acupuncture may be an effective treatment.
Research scientists at Ruhr-University Bochum concluded that acupuncture is an effective alternative to conventional orthopedic treatments for chronic shoulder pain.
A total of 424 patients were studied in 31 orthopedic physician offices. Each received 15 treatments over a period of 6 weeks. The orthopedists were trained in acupuncture and administered the acupuncture treatments. Three groups were compared. The first group of patients received textbook acupuncture (verum acupuncture). The next group received non-relevant needle puncture (sham acupuncture). The final group received conventional orthopedic care.
Results showed greater range of motion including abduction and arm-above-head-test for the acupuncture group over the sham and orthopedic groups. Pain level reductions were also better for the acupuncture group.
Three Month Follow-UpThe verum acupuncture group had a 65 percent recovery rate. The sham acupuncture group had a 24 percent recovery rate, and the orthopedic group had a 37 percent recovery rate measured three months following the cessation of acupuncture care.
Immediate Follow-UpThe verum acupuncture group had a 68 percent recovery rate. The sham acupuncture group had a 40 percent recovery rate, and the orthopedic group had a 28 percent recovery rate measured immediately following the cessation of acupuncture care. In both cases, the patients receiving acupuncture demonstrated the most clinically significant recovery rates.
What I find particularly interesting about this study is that the results from the verum acupuncture group held very steady over 3 months, while the sham acupuncture group’s results declined, and surprisingly the orthopedic group increased. Much is often made in some circles about the fact that in some studies sham and verum acupuncture often have similar outcomes. I think this is related to poor study design, as I have described here. But this study seems to underline that the sham acupuncture’s results may be temporary.
Reference:Pain. 2010 Oct;151(1):146-54. Epub 2010 Jul 23. German Randomized Acupuncture Trial for chronic shoulder pain (GRASP) – a pragmatic, controlled, patient-blinded, multi-centre trial in an outpatient care environment. Molsberger AF, Schneider T, Gotthardt H, Drabik A.