Otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, frozen shoulder is a condition that is characterized by its insidious onset. Without intervention, overtime a slow and gradual decrease in range of motion occurs. Pain and stiffness of the shoulder joint are the key presentations of the condition. Scar tissue can form and the fluid which lubricates the joint can also be affected reducing the range of motion of the shoulder.

This type of slow onset, if not treated can cause severe immobilization. This can of course cause serious complications in a patients activities of daily living. It is not clear why some patients develop frozen shoulder, but any condition that affects the use of the shoulder joint can eventually progress into frozen shoulder (i.e. injury to the joint or muscles around the joint, post surgery recovery, stroke recovery, etc.). Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or stronger pain medications are often prescribed to help treat the pain temporarily. Physical therapy is another common prescription to try and increase mobility in the joint.

What can Acupuncture do?

  • Increase blood flow in the muscles and tendons of the shoulder
  • Reduce pain by stimulating our body’s own “pain relievers” such as endogenous opioids like endorphins and enkephalins
  • Break up scar tissue by stimulating the immune system

All of these results of acupuncture stimulation work together to help decrease the overall recovery time after onset or prevent the condition from occurring all together. To optimize results, it is important to start acupuncture therapy as soon as pain or decrease range of motion starts to occur. The farther progressed the condition, the longer it may take to fully recover. 

Additional Treatment: Cupping Therapy for Frozen Shoulder

Cupping is a therapy that has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The cup is placed on the skin which pulls the tissue into the cup. This process has multiple benefits:

  • Stimulates the body’s immune system to clean up damaged tissue
  • Creates new blood flow to the area to optimize healing
  • Break up micro adhesion’s within the fascia and muscle fibers to re-establish normal range of motion

I have found combining this therapy with active range of motion is a powerful tool. I like to place the cup in the affected area and have the patient attempt to go through the normal range of motion as much as possible. I find, after acupuncture treatment, that combining cupping with range of motion often produces an immediate and sustained range of motion.

Dr. Joshua Jangula
Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
Vida Seattle
Email me: drjangula@thinkvida.com