Acupuncture for Chronic Shoulder Pain in Persons With Spinal Cord Injury: A Small-Scale Clinical Trial

Trevor A. Dyson-Hudson, Peter Kadar, Michael LaFountaine, Racine Emmons, Steven C. Kirshblum, David Tulsky, Eugene Komaroff

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Dyson-Hudson TA, Kadar P, LaFountaine M, Emmons R, Kirshblum SC, Tulsky D, Komaroff E. Acupuncture for chronic shoulder pain in persons with spinal cord injury: a small-scale clinical trial. Objective: To determine the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal shoulder pain in subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI). Design: Randomized, double blind (participants, evaluator), placebo (invasive sham) controlled trial. Setting: Clinical research center. Participants: Seventeen manual wheelchair-using subjects with chronic SCI and chronic musculoskeletal shoulder pain. Interventions: Participants were randomly assigned to receive 10 treatments of either acupuncture or invasive sham acupuncture (light needling of nonacupuncture points). Main Outcome Measure: Changes in shoulder pain intensity were measured using the Wheelchair User's Shoulder Pain Index. Results: Shoulder pain decreased significantly over time in both the acupuncture and the sham acupuncture groups (P=.005), with decreases of 66% and 43%, respectively. There was no significant difference between the 2 groups (P=.364). There was, however, a medium effect size associated with the acupuncture treatment. Conclusions: There appears to be an analgesic effect or a powerful placebo effect associated with both acupuncture and sham acupuncture. There was a medium treatment effect associated with the acupuncture, which suggests that it may be superior to sham acupuncture. This observation, along with the limited power, indicates that a larger, more definitive randomized controlled trial using a similar design is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1276-1283
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Shoulder pain
  • Spinal cord injuries


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