A lot of people come to me with what is called a frozen shoulder. It is a common complaint in people as they get into their late forties and early fifties, though sometimes it can present in younger people. A frozen shoulder is miserable. The pain can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleep position. The lack of mobility in the joint makes it difficult to exercise. Even everyday activities like showering or brushing your hair can become troublesome.
Causes of frozen shoulder
From a traditional acupuncture point of view a frozen shoulder is the result of a lack of circulation in the shoulder. There are various causes. It could be environmental – cold and damp getting into the joint. If the neck and shoulder are exposed to a cold wind or left uncovered by the duvet at night it can cause a problem. It could be scarring from an old injury or overuse that impairs the circulation. It might be chronic stress creating tension in the area. If there is poor circulation the blood cannot carry nutrients needed for healing to the area. Even more importantly, poor circulation means toxins are not flushed from the tissues since all living tissues create waste products. The result is inflammation and pain.
Symptoms of frozen shoulder
Frozen shoulder typically presents with pain in the shoulder, especially during activity. The pain can be at the back, on top or in front of the joint. Mobility in the joint is restricted in any or all directions. Every case is slightly different. For some, the pain is restricted to the shoulder joint, for others the whole or part of the arm can be painful or numb. Traditional acupuncture diagnosis works out which channels are affected and therefore how to restore circulation to the shoulder.
Treatment of frozen shoulder
I have treated many people with shoulder pain. My job is to get the blood circulation flowing again. As soon as this happens the pain can reduce very quickly and the mobility of the joint can improve. I use acupuncture and moxa to achieve this. With frozen shoulder, I tell my patients they should see a significant improvement in the first two sessions, though a complete course of treatment may take weekly or bi-weekly 45-minute treatments over a longer period, depending on how long the problem has been in place and how severe the imbalance. If we do not see an improvement in the first couple of treatments, this can be a useful diagnostic insight that it is not a simple frozen shoulder. There might be a structural problem for example. In such a case I would reconsider my diagnosis and perhaps suggest a different type of treatment.