Acupuncture in shoulder pain and functional impairment after neck dissection: A prospective randomized pilot study


  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.



The efficacy of conventional physiotherapy and antiinflammatory/analgesic drugs in the management of shoulder pain and functional disability following neck dissection is often disappointing. Acupuncture is a safe and well-tolerated method. We report the results regarding our pilot trial of acupuncture versus conventional care in the management of postoperative shoulder pain and dysfunction after neck dissection.

Study Design

Pilot study.


Patients at a tertiary university center with chronic pain or dysfunction attributed to neck dissection were randomly assigned to either weekly acupuncture or usual care (eg., physical therapy, analgesia, and/or antiinflammatory drugs) for 5 consecutive weeks. The Constant-Murley score, a composite measure of pain, function, and activities of daily living, was the primary outcome measure. As secondary end point, The Neck Dissection Impairment Index (NDII) was used to quantify site-specific, self-reported quality of life (QOL).


After randomization, 48 patients completed the study (23 and 25 patients on acupuncture and control arms, respectively). Constant-Murley scores improved more in the acupuncture group (gain difference between groups 13.6, P < 0.01), a statistically significant improvement in site-specific QOL was also recorded at NDII (gain difference between groups 11.5, P < 0.01).


Acupuncture is safe and effective; it should be introduced and offered to patients suffering from neck pain and dysfunction related to neck dissection.

Level of Evidence

2b. Laryngoscope, 126:1790–1795, 2016