Shoulder pain can be a problem for many people and difficult to treat. It is actually one of the most common complaints in the area of bodily motor movement1. Every situation is different, and there are many variables at play such as the muscles and tendons around the shoulders (known as the rotator cuff), nerves, scarring from previous rotator cuff injuries, inflammation, and a whole sleuth of other potential causes. The pain could be constant or it can be triggered by performing everyday activities such as driver your car, reaching out to open up a door, or just putting on your t-shirt.
It can also affect the workplace as well. Data examining the impact on the occupational workforce is limited but it is believed that up to 50% of sick leave is accounted for by muscle or bone injuries to the shoulders and neck2.
Here is a nice quick introduction into shoulder injuries and the muscle of the rotator cuff .
Acupuncture and Shoulder Pain Research
In one study examining 300 cases of shoulder pain after a stroke, electro-acupuncture and acupressure was shown to be superior to comprehensive rehabilitation treatment3.
A review published in the British Journal of General Practitioners showed acupuncture was a trusted therapy by physiotherapists for shoulder pain4. Four studies were reviewed and found a decrease in pain and restored function compared with a placebo after four weeks of treatment.
Managing Your Pain
From my experience pro-activity is going to be your best friend. That means maintaining your acupuncture treatment plan, having a good stretching program, and making sure your doing the correct exercises to reduce the pain. A nerve impingement will require a different approach as opposed to inflammation of the surrounding shoulder muscles and the treatment plan you’re on should reflect that.
Also Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes a holistic approach towards healing, so taking care of your entire musculoskeletal system is important, meaning making sure all your muscles are functioning properly. Why am I so fascinated with tai chi and qi gong? Because these exercises can help you develop your nature posture and alignment. This will improve your body movement mechanics in all aspects of life.
Lastly an acupuncture treatment will consist of multiple therapies, which may include acupressure, heat therapy, moxibustion, electro-acupuncture, cupping, and a number of other therapies which work cohesively to provide relief and help treat the shoulder. It’s all a matter of what works well for each individual patient rather than applying a one size fits all model which is how we’ve approached healthcare for the last 50 years. Hopefully this provides you with some insight and I wish you all the best.
How has shoulder pain affected your life? Please feel free to comment below.
1,2Vas J, et al. Acupuncture and rehabilitation of the painful shoulder: study protocol of an ongoing multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2005 Oct.
3. Li N, et al [Double-center randomized controlled trial on post-stroke shoulder pain treated by electroacupuncture combined with Tuina]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Feb
4. Johansson K, Oberg B, Adolfsson L, Foldevi M. A combination of systematic review and clinicians’ beliefs in interventions for subacromial pain. British Journal of General Practitioners. 2002 Feb