In the past few weeks at my acupuncture clinic, there has been an increase in patients coming in for treatment of shoulder pain. I wouldn’t call it an epidemic, but I’ve noticed more patients mentioning it.
These patients report having trouble reaching back to put on a seatbelt, putting a jacket on, overhead motions, limitations on exercise and a general reduction in day to day function- the ‘activities of daily living’.
You take for granted how difficult it is to operate with one functioning arm.
What causes Shoulder Pain?
The shoulder is prone to injury due its structure and function. As a ball and socket joint, there is more mobility, therefore more chance for injury.
Key structures around the shoulder include the biceps tendon, and the rotator cuff muscles (the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Subscapularis) which help to move and stabilize the shoulder 2.
Without these structures, the arm would dislocate out of the socket. Aside from looking strange, and making your arm very ineffective, I hear it is quite painful to dislocate a shoulder. At least, that’s what Mel Gibson told me.
Some of the conditions I treat in my acupuncture clinic include:
- frozen shoulder
- bicep tendonitis
- rheumatoid arthritis
- cervical radiculopathy
- thoracic outlet syndrome
- impingement syndromes
These are all conditions that are more chronic in nature and illustrate a change in function of the shoulder joint. The shoulder just doesn’t work like it should.
Most of these conditions are the result of inflammation of the soft tissue structures of the shoulder girdle: the ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Frozen shoulder results when pain causes a lack of use, and the reduction in mobility ‘freezes’ the shoulder joint3.
Shoulder Pain Treatments
Conventional treatment of shoulder pain includes: NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), ice/heat, rest, physical therapy, cortisone injection and, in some cases, surgery.
Unfortunately, there are limitations with all of these options. Rest, ice/heat are the first line of defense but only provide temporary relief. NSAIDS should only be taken for about 10 days because they can have a negative impact on the stomach- potentially causing ulcers, bleeding, and GERD.
Cortisone injections reduce pain by reducing inflammation. They are not considered pain relievers. Cortisone injections may provide quick relief but the results are mixed. Repeated cortisone injections to the same area may weaken cartilage, ligament and tendons4.
Acupuncture Treatment for Shoulder Pain
Acupuncture treatment focuses on reducing inflammation, improving blood flow and decreasing pain. Acupuncture excels at treating the chronic, nagging type injuries that don’t respond well to conventional treatment.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin, pre-sterilized needles in various areas of the body to elicit a response. Acupuncture stimulates the release of the opiods (pain killing chemicals) as well as adenosine- a natural pain killer with anti-inflammatory properties.5
Unlike a cortisone injection, which is given directly in the injured area, acupuncture needles do not have to be placed in an already injured area. By using a style of acupunture that focuses on distal treatments (ie-away from painful areas), we can achieve results without causing any additional discomfort.
How well does Acpupunture work? In a 2010 study comparing acupuncture to conventional orthopedic treatments, the acupuncture group fared far better. At the three month follow up, the acupuncture group had a recovery rate of 65% vs. 37% for the orthopedic group.6
Acupuncture is a safe, natural, effective way to treat shoulder problems. Don't 'shoulder'* the burden of pain anymore.
Call today for a free consultation.
*PS-apologies for the terrible pun.
5. Pain. 2010 Oct;151(1):146-54. Epub 2010 Jul 23. German Randomized Acupuncture Trial for chronic shoulder pain (GRASP) - a pragmatic, controlled, patient-blinded, multi-centre trial in an outpatient care environment. Molsberger AF, Schneider T, Gotthardt H, Drabik A.
6. Nanna Goldman, Michael Chen, Takumi Fujita, Qiwu Xu, Weiguo Peng, Wei Liu, Tina K Jensen, Yong Pei, Fushun Wang, Xiaoning Han, Jiang-Fan Chen, Jurgen Schnermann, Takahiro Takano, Lane Bekar, Kim Tieu, Maiken Nedergaard. Adenosine A1 receptors mediate local anti-nociceptive effects of acupuncture. Nature Neuroscience, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nn.2562