Acupuncture For Shoulder Pain
Lifting groceries out of the car, hugging loved ones, even walking the dog: all of these actions rely on healthy shoulders. Unfortunately, it can feel like we are literally carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders when we experience shoulder pain. Acupuncture for shoulder pain can make you feel lighter, more balanced, and more ready to see the world. This is what you can expect when you visit our Portland acupuncture clinic.
How does acupuncture for shoulder pain work?
There are actually four distinct joints that make up your shoulder girdle. The largest one is a ball-and-socket joint that connects the upper arm bones to the collarbones and shoulder blades.
The joint itself is lined with cartilage and bursa that cushion the places where your bones meet. Synovial fluid helps the joints glide. Muscles from the arm, top of the shoulder, chest, and upper back all connect to these highly mobile and complex joints. Running through and around these bones and muscles are a network of tendons and ligaments.
When any one of these structures is damaged, inflamed, or develops disease, pain can occur.
Acupuncture for shoulder pain is an essential pain management approach for relieving this type of pain. Acupuncture can increase blood flow and circulation to your shoulder joint by balancing the electrical gradient in the fascia, nerves, and cells. This medical specialty relieves pain, promotes healing, and increases the production of synovial fluid in your shoulder to encourage smoother movement.
What are common causes of shoulder pain?
We ask so much of our shoulders every day, and the potential for shoulder pain can be high. Some common causes of shoulder pain include:
- Shoulder bursitis: If the fluid-filled sacs that cushion movement (bursa) become inflamed due to irritation or infection, shoulder bursitis can develop
- Arthritis: Arthritis affects the shoulders like it affects any other joint in the body by causing pain, inflammation, and limited mobility
- Tendonitis (with or without rotator cuff tears): Tendonitis occurs when the tendons in your shoulder become inflamed or actually tear
- Shoulder injury: Strains, sprains, fractured bones, and dislocated shoulders are all conditions that can lead to pain
An injury can be caused by carrying a heavy bag on a shoulder, sports, sleeping posture, or just reaching behind the car seat. As we’ll see, though, one of the most complex causes of shoulder pain is frozen shoulder. Thankfully, acupuncture offers major benefits for this condition.
Can acupuncture help with frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder can begin mysteriously. Usually frozen shoulder occurs with repetitive use or when an injury limits your shoulder’s movement. After many micro tears, a muscle goes into spasm and the central nervous system automatically shuts down the muscles to guard the shoulder from pain and damage. This can happen with even a small amount of scar tissue in the joint or along the nerve pathways. These things can build up slowly or quickly after any shoulder injury.
On the other side of the coin, some people experience an obvious shoulder injury. This might be a rotator cuff injury or a dislocated shoulder. Both require a period of stability to allow the ligaments, tendons, and joint to heal. If a person does not begin to bring gradual movement back into the joint, though, tendons and ligaments effectively “freeze.” They shorten and tighten. Scar tissue begins to fill the joint, allowing less room for the bones to move. Movement causes pain in any part of the joint, including the shoulder blades.
Acupuncture for frozen shoulder offers healing in a variety of ways.
First, it provides pain relief in the affected joint. Research shows that acupuncture pins stimulate a variety of responses in the body. One of these is the triggering of endorphins, which are natural, pain-fighting chemicals in the body.
A research study that included over 20,000 patients showed that people who received acupuncture treatments felt greater pain relief and they stayed better after their treatments ended. The people that received “standard of care” without acupuncture felt less relief and they got worse after their treatments concluded.
Acupuncture for shoulder pain also helps to reduce inflammation. Inflammation takes up even more space in the joint, making movement more difficult and painful. It also continues a vicious cycle of stagnation, making the frozen shoulder worse.
Further, acupuncture for frozen shoulder helps by increasing blood flow and circulation to the joint. Our bodies heal faster when blood is moving properly. This is a crucial step to promote healing. This makes acupuncture an essential medical specialty for solutions and management of pain. These are a few of the ways acupuncture helps the body to heal and encourages movement to reduce pain from frozen shoulder.
Why is acupuncture for shoulder pain so important?
Whether your shoulder pain is from an injury, overuse, or another underlying condition, the benefits of acupuncture are available to you. It does not interact with other treatments you may have, and because we take a comprehensive functional medical approach to everyone’s health, acupuncture is a great choice for those with chronic conditions.
In fact, most people report added benefits like better sleep, relaxation, better digestion, and improvements in other health conditions. Further, acupuncture can help shoulder pain patients reduce or stop their use of prescription pain medications, as well as over-the-counter NSAIDs. Both of these come with a number of serious side effects. Pain medications can create respiratory issues, habitual dependence, and cognitive impairment. NSAIDs are known to cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and cause intestinal bleeding.
Some people wonder what an acupuncture treatment is like. It is important to know that most patients do not feel anything at all during an acupuncture treatment. Many people actually fall asleep during treatment!
Our approach to acupuncture for shoulder pain
At The WellBridge Clinic in Portland, we recognize that many patients are likely coming to us when they have tried other treatments with no relief. Sometimes a friend or primary care doctor recommends they try acupuncture for shoulder pain and sends them our way.
No matter if you’ve never tried acupuncture before or have experienced years of its benefits, our team is here to help you learn more about this medical specialty and find relief.
Our functional medicine approach at The WellBridge Clinic guides our patients through three treatment stages for shoulder pain:
- Symptom management or relief care: This is the acute stage of pain, when our team is focused on finding relief from symptoms. During this period, you may have more frequent visits to help you find relief. You’ve heard of muscle memory: sometimes our shoulders get a “bad” muscle memory. Our job here is to change that pattern and create a new one.
- Corrective care: During this stage, our goal is to fix any underlying dysfunction, with symptoms becoming less frequent and less severe. During this time your body is developing a new habit: muscle tension is relaxing, joints are lining out, and pain levels are better, longer.
- Maintenance care: Once you are feeling better, we move into maintenance with reduced frequency of visits. Each visit will be more like a wellness “tune up” to keep you at your optimum health so you don’t backslide.
At our Portland functional medicine and acupuncture clinic, we focus on finding the best treatment plan for your unique situation.