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Randomised controlled trial of contralateral manual acupuncture for the relief of chronic shoulder pain
  1. Haolin Zhang1,2,
  2. Jungang Sun3,
  3. Chao Wang3,
  4. Congcong Yu3,
  5. Weiwei Wang3,
  6. Meng Zhang2,
  7. Lixing Lao4,5,
  8. Ming Yi2,
  9. You Wan2
  1. 1Center for Reproductive Medicine and Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing, China
  2. 2Department of Neurobiology, and Key Laboratory for Neuroscience, Ministry of Education/National Health and Family Planning Commission, Neuroscience Research Institute, Peking University, Beijing, China
  3. 3Department of Pain Medicine, Sichuan Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, Chengdu, China
  4. 4Center for Integrative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  5. 5School of Chinese Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ming Yi, Neuroscience Research Institute, Peking University, 38 Xueyuan Road, Beijing 100191, China; mingyi{at}


Objective To explore the effects of contralateral manual acupuncture (MA) on patients with chronic shoulder pain.

Methods Eighty patients with chronic shoulder pain were randomly allocated to receive contralateral MA (n=38) for 4 weeks or to remain on a waiting list while receiving conventional orthopaedic therapy (n=42). Visual analogue scale (VAS) scores were taken as the primary outcome measure and used for a priori power calculation. Secondary outcome measures for the assessment of shoulder mobility and quality of life included the Jobe test, the Constant-Murley (CM) score, the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score, and the 36 item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36).

Results Intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis demonstrated significant pain relief with contralateral acupuncture, with mean differences in VAS scores compared to the waiting list group of −19.4 (−28.0 to −10.8) at 2 weeks, −40.4 (−49.0 to −31.8) at 4 weeks, −41.1 (−49.7 to −32.5) at 8 weeks, and −40.9 (−49.5 to −32.3) at 16 weeks. CM and DASH scores were also improved at all time points (p<0.01). Shoulder mobility, physical functioning, social functioning and mental health components of the SF-36 were also improved by contralateral acupuncture at 8 weeks. No significant adverse effects were observed.

Conclusions These results demonstrate beneficial effects of contralateral acupuncture in the treatment of chronic shoulder pain, both in terms of pain and function. Future research is required to compare directly the effects of local and contralateral acupuncture and to quantify the specific and non-specific effects.

Trial registration number NCT01733914.


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