shoulder pain

Shoulder Pain

shoulder pain

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body. The humerus (long arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade) together form a ball and socket joint covered by a layer of cartilage. Due to its highly mobile nature, the shoulder joint is also prone to becoming injured through manual labour, playing sports, and repetitive movements. When the shoulder is injured, it can hinder your ability to perform a range of motions in your arm and can cause a great deal of discomfort. Diseases that are related to the cervical spine, liver, heart, and gallbladder can often trigger shoulder pain as well.

People aged over 60 are more likely to suffer from shoulder pain due to the degeneration of soft tissues surrounding the shoulder.

tl;drtl;dr Too long; didn't read. A quick summary for those pressed for time.

  • Shoulder pain can be caused by external or internal factors.
  • External factors:
    • Cold and Dampness.
    • Repetitive Strain.
    • Traumatic Injuries.
  • Internal factors:
    • Damp Heat in the Small Intestine or Gallbladder channels.
    • Large Intestine channel problems.
    • Cold invasion
    • Qi stagnation
    • Blood stasis
  • Studies show acupuncture decreases pain and improves mobility.
  • No severe side effects and long-lasting benefits.
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Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

Symptoms will vary depending on the causes, hence you may experience a dull ache that comes on gradually over time or a sharp or burning pain.

Other associated symptoms are:

  • Change in your range of movement in your shoulder or pain triggered by movement
  • Inflammation, redness, swelling, and heat around the shoulder joint
  • Popping, clicking, or grinding sounds occurring with movement of the shoulder joint
  • Weakness in the shoulder
  • Pain in your arm, neck, or back

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis and Treatment

Minor pain in the shoulder caused by sports or trauma can heal on their own or recover with home treatment. However, severe cases that involve bone fracture or torn ligament, or are caused by liver, heart, or gallbladder conditions may require professional medical interventions.

A thorough examination of the location of the pain, how the pain started, and the specific symptoms associated with your pain can help form an accurate diagnosis. Timely and proper treatment may reduce the time needed for recovery and prevent the reoccurrence of pain in the shoulder in the future.

shoulder pain

Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

To understand shoulder pain, we must first have a good understanding of what meridians travel through this area. Meridians are the routes which Qi (energy) and blood travels throughout the body. There are altogether 6 meridians on our arm that travel through the shoulder region. Three of these are on the yang side (external surface) of the arm, and three are on the yin side (internal surface) of the arm. The meridians on the yang side include the Large Intestine, Triple Warmer, and Small Intestine meridians. On the yin side are the Lung, Pericardium, and Heart meridians. Obstruction in any one of these meridians will result in pain and discomfort.

Causes of pain in the shoulder can be external or internal.

External Causes:

  1. Cold and Dampness – The invasion of cold in the shoulder region can lead to stagnation of Qi causing pain and stiffness in the joint and surrounding tissues.
  2. Repetitive Strain – This is caused by excessive use of the shoulder joint by repeating a particular movement. This type of pain is commonly seen in sports or through work. Over time, excessive use of the shoulder joint will result in Qi stagnation and blood stasis in the local area, causing pain.
  3. Traumatic Injuries – Minor traumatic injuries can result in Qi stagnation, and severe traumatic injuries can cause blood stasis as well. Injuries that have not been treated properly can linger on in the body and give opportunities for cold to invade the body, which further exacerbates the symptoms.

Internal Causes:

Shoulder pain may also be a manifestation of internal organ issues, such as damp heat in the Small Intestine or Gallbladder channel (both channels travel through the shoulder region) or problems in the Large Intestine channel. Aching and dull pain in the shoulder region is usually caused by cold invasion or Qi stagnation. Blood stasis usually causes sharp or stabbing pain.

Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses these underlying causes and treats symptoms using holistic methods such as acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine.

Research on Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be as limiting as it is common, prompting many to seek out alternatives to conventional medicine. In this light, acupuncture emerges as a fascinating topic. But what does research say about its effectiveness? Let’s dive into the studies that have put acupuncture to the test.

Overview of Relevant Studies

A variety of research initiatives have explored the impact of acupuncture on shoulder pain. A 2020 meta-analysis on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating frozen shoulder found that acupuncture provided a notable pain decrease and improved function. The “German Randomized Acupuncture Trial for chronic shoulder pain (GRASP)” found that patients receiving acupuncture experienced not only decreased pain levels but also an improvement in shoulder mobility. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that acupuncture combined with rehabilitation training is more effective than rehabilitation training alone for post-stroke shoulder pain.

Why Choose Acupuncture?

The absence of severe side effects in acupuncture presents it as an attractive option for those unable to tolerate certain medications. Acupuncture’s benefits have also been observed to last longer, suggesting a potential for sustained improvement without the need for continuous treatment.

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