Shoulder pain can stop you in your tracks. It can limit your mobility and range. This can lead to challenges when it comes to everyday tasks like changing your shirt or grabbing for a glass of water. Can acupuncture be helpful when this is your experience?

In this article, we are going to look at how acupuncture works for shoulder pain, its effectiveness, what points are often used, the number of sessions usually recommended, and what to expect when it comes to costs.

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can come on because you choose to pick up something heavy and working out. It can also come from one of the following three conditions:

  1. Rotator cuff disease

  2. Periarthritis

  3. Adhesive capsulitis

The time frame people may experience shoulder pain can range from a few days to 12 to 18 months. That is a long time to live with the discomfort of pain, and limited range and mobility. Acupuncture can be an effective treatment this has been documented as being true through multiple studies, case-studies, and reviews.

Acupuncture Points for Shoulder Pain

To understand what acupuncture points are often used for shoulder pain, you need to first understand something about TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are often two types of points selected for treating pain:

  1. Points where their placement seem related to the area being treated - somewhere near your shoulder

  2. Points that are nowhere near your pain: your legs, chest, or back, or even on the opposite side of where your pain is.

  • Jianyu (LI 15)

  • Jianliao (TE 14)

  • Jianzhen (SI 9)

  • Binao (LI 14)

  • Tiaokou (ST 38)

  • (LN): (1) anterior axillary fold

  • (2) posterior axillary fold

  • (3) in the shoulder department

  • 2 cm below Tianzong (SI 11)

  • (4) inside of the upper arm side

  • Tianfu (LU 3) inward 1 cm

  • Between pericardium meridian and lung meridian

  • Lateral to the shank

  • 3 cun below Yanglingquan (GB34)

  • Midway between gall bladder meridian and bladder meridian

What you experience when you get acupuncture treatment may not look like that or come with such quick results. It all depends on the reason why your shoulder hurts, how long it has hurt, and the severity of the pain.

On the same note, just because you have a list of points that are often used for shoulder pain, it does not mean that there are not different points that your acupuncturist may choose to use for your treatments. Why? Because acupuncture is a very customized and personalized to each person.

How Effective is Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

A study of 30 cases of shoulder pain explored the effectiveness of acupuncture. Among the participants of the study, the length of time shoulder pain was experienced averaged at 3.8 years. To measure the intensity of pain experienced by participants, the study used the visual analog scale (VAS).

  • Before treatment started: The baseline VAS of participants was measured at 71.3

  • After ten sessions: The baseline VAS of participants was measured at 28.3

The decrease over ten sessions showed the greatest drops in pain at the following sessions:

  • Sixth:(-27.3%)

  • Tenth: (-43%)

Muscle stiffness: Was documented as being minimized by all participants.

Shoulder function: Was documented in the study as reaching a 44% improvement by the tenth session of acupuncture.

Patients using medication: Before the study, the percentage of participants using pain medications was 50%. When the Study completed and the participants had concluded the acupuncture treatments - the percentage of participants taking medications had dropped to 10%.

At the end of the study, only 10% of patients still taking drugs.

The exact response and results each participant experienced from acupuncture treatments depended on three different variables:

  1. Age

  2. Symptoms

  3. Duration

In essence, the study concluded that the role acupuncture can play for shoulder pain is one that relieves pain and improves shoulder function. It also concluded that acupuncture is a good alternative for people who experience or have been experiencing negative side effects from pain medications and are seeking other options.

How Many Sessions Will I Need?

Based on the information on the study above, the number of sessions that you may need will probably range from 6-10 with 10 most likely being the magic number.

However, always communicate with your acupuncturist about the number of treatments that they recommend and also check in with your own body and listen to the signals and changes that you start to experience. You may find that even after one treatment your symptoms are not as severe.

You may also find periodic treatments for maintenance once you have achieved a reduction in pain that increases your quality of life.


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