Acupuncture to treat shoulder pain


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Long term pain can severely impair a person’s quality of life, particularly when routine methods of managing and treating that pain fail to help. An alternative to traditional methods of pain management which has only grown in popularity is acupuncture, and in this article we look at how acupuncture can be used to remedy shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain

Your shoulder is in actual fact a very large structure with many different components. Rich in tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bone, the shoulder is one of the pivotal parts of the upper body, responsible for many of our everyday movements and activities, and a key part of our body involved in many different sports and activities.

Because of its pivotal role, the shoulder is also susceptible to injury and, through that, pain. Your shoulder’s position and applications in so many everyday applications means that when injured, your shoulder can be easily exacerbated to cause severe and lasting pain. Long term shoulder pain has many unpleasant consequences and can seriously impair your quality of life.

Common examples of shoulder injuries and conditions include shoulder dislocations, arthritis (an inflammation of the joints of the shoulder), bursitis, and a range of other tears, sprains, and strains of important tissues in what is a very large bodily structure.

Conventional treatment for shoulder pain usually involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDS (an abbreviation standing for ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), ice to reduce swelling, heat to improve circulation and hence recovery, regular physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles and support structures of the shoulder, and if necessary surgery. Which methods are used depend on the severity of the injury or the nature of the condition affecting the shoulder.

Each of these options can be useful and hugely benefit shoulder recovery, however they also have their limitations. Surgery will usually involve a person having to undergo an invasive procedure that can take weeks, if not months, to fully recover from. NSAIDS can only be used for about a week to ten days before severe side effects like stomach ulcers can begin to set in.

Because of these limitations to many of the treatment techniques currently used, alternative therapies are often sought. These include techniques like acupuncture that can provide both a means of pain relief and a tool to aid in recovery.

How can acupuncture treatment help address shoulder pain?

While applied as a treatment for a range of conditions for thousands of years in the Far East, acupuncture has been the subject of considerable contention and debate since its introduction to the Western world. This has largely been a consequence of difficulties in conducting scientific research into the practice and its effectiveness, which in turn makes it difficult to reach conclusions regarding acupuncture’s usefulness in treating various conditions.

Thus far there is evidence that does support acupuncture as a technique that can benefit conditions like chronic shoulder pain and injury through the reduction of inflammation and pain, and the improvement of circulation (and hence recovery). While there is evidence pointing towards these as viable means by which acupuncture can benefit shoulder pain, it is important to note that further research is needed before any concrete conclusions can be reached.

The treatment itself would involve the application of sterilised stainless steel needles to particular parts of the shoulder known as acupuncture points (often shortened to acupoints). By targeting these areas, it is thought that acupuncture stimulates the release of natural painkilling chemicals called neurotransmitters, as well as improved circulation and potentially other physiological effects that promote healing and recovery.

If you are suffering from a shoulder injury or chronic shoulder pain then you can potentially benefit from acupuncture. However it is important that you use acupuncture as a complement to medical treatment, and not a replacement for routine care from your doctor. This is particularly important if an injury is complicated and requires surgery, and where your shoulder is affected by a condition like arthritis which can require further management.


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