The shoulder is prone to injury due to its structure and function. Like 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.
These are all conditions that are more chronic in nature and illustrate a change in the function of the shoulder joint. The shoulder just doesn’t work as 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 joint.
Conventional treatment of shoulder pain include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), ice/heat, rest, physical therapy, a cortisone injection and, in some cases, surgery.
Unfortunately, there are limitations to 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 tendons.
Acupuncture is a relaxing safe and effective 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 opioids (pain-killing chemicals) as well as adenosine- a natural pain killer with anti-inflammatory properties.
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 acupuncture that focuses on distal treatments (ie-away from painful areas), we can achieve results without causing any additional discomfort.
Several studies have reported that acupuncture can successfully treat frozen shoulder. A new study compared the use of acupuncture (along with exercise) to exercise alone in a small group of frozen shoulder patients. The study, published in the Hong Kong Medical Journal, found that patients treated with acupuncture and exercise demonstrated “significantly greater improvement” on shoulder assessment tests than those using just exercise, and suggests that acupuncture could be useful in cases where more conventional therapies have been unsuccessful.