A German study recently evaluated the use of acupuncture for chronic shoulder pain. The researchers set up the study groups randomly. The study group received acupuncture  from an orthopedic physician for at least 15 treatments or a treatment one to three times a week. There was also a sham acupuncture group which received the same number of needle treatments but not on any “true” acupuncture points and a control group which was treated with conventional conservative treatment. (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory prescription medication and physical therapy)

The researchers limited the study population to people with chronic shoulder pain lasting between 6 weeks and two years and excluded clients with pain due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

With a study group of 424 patients, they showed a decrease in pain scores of 50% (using a visual analog scale) in 65% of the acupuncture group versus 24% in the sham group and 21% in the conservative treatment group. Pain relief lasted for three months.

This study confirms what I’ve seen in my private practice. Chronic shoulder pain responds well to acupuncture – especially when the treatment is combined with an anti-inflammatory diet similar to what Dr. Andrew Weil recommends and good manual medical care from a well-trained chiropractor and massage therapist. Here’s the kicker, though. It’s not fast or easy. To fully restore mobility and function to our shoulder it takes patience and persistance.