Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is a complex joint where many possible types and causes of pain and dysfunction can occur. Shoulder pain has been reported to be the third most common musculoskeletal problem in general practice. It can develop following injury or stroke but it more commonly occurs during day-to-day activities such as shopping, work, sports, and overhead lifting.

An important component of treatment is exercise to recondition the shoulder. However, pain can often limit these activities and delay recovery. Evidence-based clinical guidelines are increasingly recommending non-pharmacological interventions (eg. NSAIDS) due to the potential risks of medication use for chronic conditions.

Within the range of available treatments for pain, acupuncture has emerged as a good candidate for a number of chronic pain problems, and may be a drug-free treatment option for shoulder pain.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

  • Rotator cuff disorders (injuries, tendonitis, bursitis)
  • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
  • Shoulder arthritis
  • Acromioclavicular joint disease
  • Referred pain from the neck
  • Post-stroke and cancer pain

What Does The Research Say?

The following insights are obtained from scientific studies, systematic reviews and analysis of clinical trials on Shoulder Pain.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific research on Shoulder Pain. It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

Perspectives on Integrative Medicine

2022, Oct 01

Shoulder Pain and the Potential Role of Acupuncture: A Narrative Review of Clinical Practice and Treatment Guidelines
Perspectives on Integrative Medicine

Acupuncture is safe and may be a cost-effective treatment for shoulder pain. There were 131 statements recommending the use of acupuncture for shoulder pain across 12 subtypes of shoulder pain. The most common statements were for non-specific ‘shoulder pain.’ There were 11 statements against the use of acupuncture for shoulder pain and three subtypes of shoulder pain. The level of evidence in studies of acupuncture treatment for shoulder pain is low, therefore, further research is needed. Recommendations for the use of acupuncture for shoulder pain are increasing but lag behind those for other pain problems such as low back pain.

Birch S, Lee MS, Kim TH, Alraek T Full Article

Frontiers in Medicine

2022, Aug 18

Electroacupuncture for the treatment of frozen shoulder: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Frontiers in Medicine

Electroacupuncture is reported to improve FS pain and function compared with control treatments. Additionally, EA can be used as an adjunct therapy for FS pain. EA could emerge as a potent intervention against FS.

Heo JW, Jo JH, Lee JJ, Kang H, Choi TY, Lee MS, Kim JI Full Article

Journal of Korean Medicine Rehabilitation

2021, Oct 31

Effects of Acupuncture after Rotator Cuff Surgery: A Systematic Review
Journal of Korean Medicine Rehabilitation

6 RCTs were finally selected, and acupuncture showed positive results for pain relief and functional recovery after rotator cuff surgery. However, the analyzed 6 RCTs showed a high overall risk of bias. In the future, RCTs with a higher level of evidence on the effect of acupuncture after rotator cuff surgery need to be continuously conducted.

Lee SJ, Ko YM, Park JS, Park TY, Lee JH, Cho JH, Hwang EH, Kim KJ, Choi MY, Song YK Full Article

Journal of Acupuncture Research

2021, Aug 31

Acupuncture Treatment for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials
Journal of Acupuncture Research Korean Acupuncture & Moxibustion Medicine Society

No major side effects were reported. Acupuncture may be an effective and safe treatment for SIS however, further RCTs are required.

Park JE, Kim WY, Lee SJ, Oh DY, Lee MC, Jeon MK, Kim HJ, Ahn JY, Yang SH, Choi YY, Shin NY, Nam HJ Full Article

American Journal of Translational Research

2021, Apr 15

Effects of massage and acupuncture on the range of motion and daily living ability of patients with frozen shoulder complicated with cervical spondylosis
American Journal of Translational Research

Massage combined with acupuncture can better improve the ROM of joints and daily living ability of patients with frozen shoulder complicated with cervical spondylosis.

Liu M, Liu Y, Peng C, Wang H, Xu Y, Jiao S, Ding Y Full Article

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

2020, Sep 25

The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Frozen Shoulder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

In this systematic review and a meta-analysis, acupuncture had shown to be a safe treatment with a significant effect in regard to reducing pain, improving shoulder function, and flexion ROM in the short term and midterm.

Ben-Arie E, Kao PY, Lee YC, Ho WC, Chou LW, Liu HP Full Article

Frontiers in Neurology

2019, Apr 26

Acupuncture for Post-stroke Shoulder-Hand Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Frontiers in Neurology

This research showcase that acupuncture treatments are effective for post-stroke patients with mild Shoulder-Hand Syndrome. The results highlighted improvements on motor function, pain relief with reduction of join inflammation, muscle weakness and limited range of motions. Acupuncture has supported patients towards returning back to daily activities.

Liu, S., Zhang, C. S., Cai, Y., Guo, X., Zhang, A. L., Xue, C. C., & Lu, C Full Article

Clinical Rehabilitation

2018, Apr

Traditional manual acupuncture combined with rehabilitation therapy for shoulder hand syndrome after stroke within the Chinese healthcare system: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Clinical Rehabilitation

This academic journal demonstrated that acupuncture is highly effective in alleviating pain when combined with rehabilitation therapy. Patients increased performance levels on stroke-specific assessments and improved on daily life activities.

Peng, L., Zhang, C., Zhou, L., Zuo, H. X., He, X. K., & Niu, Y. M. ( Full Article

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

2018, Apr 22

Acupuncture at Tiaokou (ST38) for Shoulder Adhesive Capsulitis: What Strengths Does It Have? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

This review suggests that acupuncture at Tiaokou/ST38 (as sole treatment or in combination with shoulder acupoints) achieved statistically significant effects in improving the overall symptoms and the percentage of clinical effectiveness. Nonetheless, despite stringent methodological analyses, these results need to be strengthened by additional RCTs of higher quality.

Yang C, Lv TT, Yu TY, Wong S, Lu MQ, Li YZ Full Article

Frontiers in Neurology

2018, Jan 31

Effects of Acupuncture on the Recovery Outcomes of Stroke Survivors with Shoulder Pain: A Systematic Review
Frontiers in Neurology

This study showed that acupuncture reduced shoulder pain and improved quality of life post-stroke. Patients experienced better shoulder range of motion, less edema and swelling.

Chau, J., Lo, S., Yu, X., Choi, K. C., Lau, A., Wu, J., Lee, V., Cheung, W., Ching, J., & Thompson, D. R. Full Article

The Journal of Pain

2017, Nov 30

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis
The Journal of Pain American Pain Society

Acupuncture has a clinically relevant effect on chronic pain that persists over time. The effect of acupuncture cannot be explained only by placebo effects. Factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors. Referral for acupuncture treatment is a reasonable option for chronic pain patients.

Vickers, Andrew J. et al. Full Article

Pain Medicine

2017, Mar 20

Immediate Pain Relief in Adhesive Capsulitis by Acupuncture—A Randomized Controlled Double-Blinded Study
Pain Medicine American Academy of Pain Medicine

The efficiency of distal needling acupuncture on immediate pain reduction was demonstrated in patients with AC and confirmed the applicability of press tack needles and press tack placebos for double-blind studies in acupuncture.

Schröder S, Meyer-Hamme G, Friedemann T, Kirch S, Hauck M, Plaetke R, Friedrichs S, Gulati A, Briem D Full Article

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

2012, Sep

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain After Stroke: A Systematic Review
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Society for Acupuncture Research

This systematic review proved that acupuncture combined with exercise is effective for shoulder pain after stroke. Patients showed improvements with axillary nerve pain, spasticity of shoulder muscles and mobility of rotator cuff muscles.

Jung Ah Lee, Si-Woon Park, Pil Woo Hwang, Sung Min Lim, Sejeong Kook, Kyung In Choi, and Kyoung Sook Kang. Full Article

Contact Us Clinic & Appointment Enquiries

Trusted name in traditional Chinese medicine since 1992

Caring and experienced team in Perth and Melbourne

Professional and friendly response to your questions

This form is securely encrypted. We guarantee 100% privacy. Your personal information will never be shared.