Chronic shoulder pain is the third most common type of musculoskeletal pain. It can have a significant impact on quality of life. If you’ve ever experienced this type of pain, you will be all too familiar with the agony it can bring.
There are many causes of shoulder pain, including frozen shoulder, arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, or a rotator cuff injury. In many cases, it can result from tight muscles that form pain patterns or trigger points. These can be resolved by releasing the tight band of muscle with acupuncture. In fact, acupuncture can be beneficial in naturally managing acute or chronic shoulder injuries. To understand how acupuncture can help, we first need to understand a little about the anatomy of the shoulder.
Anatomy of the shoulder
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. It is made up of four different joints:
- the glenohumeral joint– where the ball-shaped head of the long arm bone (humerus) fits into a shallow socket (glenoid)
- the sternoclavicular joint– where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the sternum
- the acromioclavicular joint – where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade
The rotator cuff holds these bones together, a collection of four major muscles and tendons stabilising the shoulder. Suppose a problem exists in one of these joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments. In that case, it can cause widespread pain and decrease functionality.
Treating shoulder pain
In treating shoulder pain, the entire shoulder will be assessed to determine the source of the pain and any structural or muscular imbalances.
In conventional Western medicine, shoulder pain is often treated first with medication (anti-inflammatories or cortisone injections) to reduce pain and swelling and suggested activity modifications. Often people are referred to physiotherapy or sports medicine to help strengthen and stabilise the joints with a specific exercise regimen. More severe cases may require the repair of torn tendons and cartilage through surgery.
Acupuncture and shoulder pain
Acupuncture is highly effective for reducing inflammation without the sometimes severe side effects that can arise from other conventional treatments. For example, cortisone injections can temporarily relieve pain and swelling. Still, they can cause local cartilage damage, joint infection, temporary increase in blood sugar and weakness in the immune system, especially with repeated shots.
The aims of acupuncture in treating shoulder injuries are as follows:
- Relieve pain
- Reduce inflammation
- Release tight muscles
- Increase the range of motion
Evidence suggests that acupuncture treatments reduce inflammation by stimulating the pituitary gland to release more cortisol naturally. Research hypothesises that acupuncture affects the release of neuropeptides from the peripheral nerve endings, a vital part of the body’s inflammatory response.
East Asian medicine considers inflammation due to a stagnation of Qi and Blood, not only in the area immediately affected but also in related organ/meridian systems. In the case of the shoulder problem, interconnected systems can be the Large and Small intestines and the Lungs. The acupuncturist will also focus on these organs and meridians to support the flow of Qi. Moxibustion and herbal ligaments are often used as well to obtain the best outcomes.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal, 30 patients with shoulder pain were treated with acupuncture. The study concluded that acupuncture is beneficial and effective for relieving pain and improving shoulder function. (1)
In another study, patients with peri-arthritic shoulders received acupuncture treatments. The results revealed that acupuncture had a total effective rate exceeding 90%. Acupuncture significantly reduced shoulder pain and improved the range of motion. (2)
To relieve shoulder pain and restore freedom of movement, it is necessary to retrain the shoulder muscles. Therefore, acupuncture works well with physiotherapy and exercise physiology for optimal outcomes.
How can Ondol Clinic help?
At Ondol Clinic, we have a team of highly experienced health professionals who are knowledgeable in pain management, reduction of inflammation and remobilisation of joints and muscles with acupuncture and moxibustion.
If you are currently suffering from shoulder pain, don’t hesitate and please contact us to make an appointment, so we can help you move freely again.
- Abdelkefi I, Ben Abdelghani K, Kassab S, et al., AB0956 Acupuncture Therapy for Shoulder Pain: A Study of 30 Cases, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2015;74:1219.
- Wang XY, Zhang YM, Jia YT, Wang H, Yue Q, Wu JK & Chen S. (2015). Treatment of 50 Patients with Acute Shoulder Periarthritis by Hui Acupuncture. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 31(4).