A retrospective observational study was performed on shoulder pain cases seen in a community general practice. Two hundred and one patients were treated with acupuncture (on distant points plus local shoulder points), moxibustion and auriculotherapy. Data was retrieved from records over a three-year period to assess the effect of acupuncture and moxibustion on pain, mobility and disability, and to compare perceived efficacy rates with published reports from Chinese acupuncturists. Using a four-point outcome scale in this series of 201 patients the study found: one patient (0.5%) reported no improvement, 12 (6%) simple improvement, 68 (33.8%) remarkable improvement, and 120 (59.7%) clinical resolution. Only two patients left the programme. In conclusion, treatment of soft tissue shoulder disorders with acupuncture and moxibustion in this series seems to have good clinical results in diminishing symptoms, shortening disease duration time and improving functional ability, even in long-lasting disease (up to 10 years). A combination of distant points plus local points, moxibustion and auriculotherapy seems to increase effectiveness, reduce the number of sessions per patient, and increase the time between sessions, suiting the needs of patients and those of a busy National Health Service clinic. The authors report results similar to those reported by Chinese acupuncturists when using similar diagnostic procedures, techniques, outcome measures and patients. This case series is the first step towards conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of acupuncture efficacy in shoulder pain. Such trials are needed to confirm the perceived efficacy of acupuncture from observational studies.
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