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Acupuncture For Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder, also called Adhesive Capsulitis, is the spontaneous and progressive inflammation of the shoulder.

It is called such because the shoulder joint usually becomes stiff and “frozen”, resulting in pain and immobility of the shoulder joint.

The causes of this disorder are relatively unclear, but it usually occurs after period of inactivity, such as after injury or surgery.

When the connective tissues in the shoulder become inflamed, bands of tissue (adhesions) form between the joint and synovial fluid decreases.


Acupuncture is one of the potential treatments for Frozen Shoulder, and has had success in some patients to alleviate the pain associated with the shoulder inflammation.

In acupuncture, small needles are inserted into specific points on the body to relieve pain.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each of the acupuncture points lies on a meridian, along which vital energy, called “chi”, flows.

One of the first studies examining the use of acupuncture to treat Adhesive Capsulitis was published in 1991. It focused on one acupuncture point on the leg, which was determined to be more effective than using multiple points.

Another recent study published in Hong Kong Medical Journal found that patients treated with acupuncture and exercise demonstrated greater improvement than those treated with just exercises.

The study suggests that acupuncture could be useful in cases where conventional treatment methods have been unsuccessful.

In the study published in the Hong Kong Medical Journal, thirty-five adults diagnosed with Frozen Shoulder were randomly assigned to either an exercise group, or an exercise plus acupuncture group, and treated for six weeks.

The acupuncture group followed the same exercise and stretching routine that the other group followed, but they also received acupuncture treatment twice a week.

A three-inch acupuncture needle was inserted into a meridian point on the lower leg and patients were asked to perform some functional exercises.

The needle point was chosen based on the belief that stimulation of the lower leg point can improve the flow of chi across the shoulder area.

Patients with right-shoulder pain had the needle inserted in the left leg, and left-shoulder pain was treated with a needle in the right leg.

At the end of the study, patients were evaluated based on pain and mobility ratings, and their improvement in daily activities. Patients receiving acupuncture in conjunction to their exercises showed overall greater improvement in shoulder mobility.

Very few studies have been conducted on the use of acupuncture for treating Frozen Shoulder, and those that have been conducted have been received with mixed reviews by the medical community.

One of the criticisms of the Hong Kong study was that patients in the acupuncture group received additional exercises during their acupuncture sessions. Despite that, it was still concluded that acupuncture could show promise in the treatment of Frozen Shoulder.

Before anything definitive can be said about the effectiveness of acupuncture on Adhesive Capsulitis, more placebo-controlled, double-blind studies need to be performed, and both the long-term and short-term outcomes need to be measured.

Acupuncture is generally considered safe, and there are no studies to suggest that using acupuncture in treating Frozen Shoulder would exacerbate the problem.

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