Health Problem: Both neck and shoulder pain are health impairments that become more frequent as individuals age. Neck pain affects up to 66% of people in developed countries during their lifetime and can become chronic in approximately 10% of individuals. Shoulder pain is also quite common, with prevalence estimates ranging from 4% to 36%.

Technology Description: The technique of acupuncture involves percutaneous insertion of very fine needles to a depth of approximately 10 to 15 millimeters at prescribed acupoints. In some cases, low-voltage current is applied to the needles; this is referred to as electroacupuncture.

Controversy: Concerns regarding the opioid epidemic have fueled considerable interest in nonpharmacological strategies, including acupuncture, for pain management in recent years. Numerous federal regulatory agencies have advised or mandated that nonpharmacologic options for pain be offered by healthcare systems and providers. Acupuncture is controversial in the United States because of lack of clear mechanisms for efficacy, inconsistent findings in studies in the peer-reviewed literature, and heterogeneity in techniques and treatment administration.

Key Questions:

Among adult patients with shoulder pain or chronic neck pain:

  • What is the efficacy of acupuncture/electroacupuncture for treating pain and reducing disability?
  • Is acupuncture/electroacupuncture safe for treating shoulder pain or chronic neck pain?
  • Have definitive patient selection criteria been established for acupuncture for treating shoulder pain or chronic neck pain?

If you have a Hayes login, click here to view the full report on the Knowledge Center.