Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

Integrative Acupuncture is one of the leading back pain acupuncture centers in Vermont. Patients visit our Montpelier and Williston practice to naturally keep pain away using acupuncture, massage, cupping, tui na and electro acupuncture.

Treating Shoulder Pain With Acupuncture

Acupuncture Medicine works to decrease shoulder pain by defining the underlying cause of the pain. Rather than providing drug therapies, we work to bring natural pain relief to the affected area.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain can be caused by various factors, ranging from minor issues to more serious conditions.

Common causes include muscle strain from overuse or poor posture, which can lead to tightness and discomfort. Injuries, such as rotator cuff tears or dislocations, are also frequent culprits, often resulting from sports, accidents, or heavy lifting. Arthritis is another significant cause, where the cartilage in the shoulder joint wears down, leading to pain and stiffness.

Conditions like bursitis and tendinitis involve inflammation of the shoulder’s bursae or tendons, causing pain during movement. Sometimes, shoulder pain can even be referred pain from problems in other areas, such as the neck.

How Is Shoulder Pain Treated With Western Medicine?

Treating shoulder pain usually starts with simple, non-invasive methods. Rest is often recommended to allow the muscles and tendons time to heal. Applying ice packs can reduce swelling and numb the pain, while heat packs can relax tense muscles.

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage discomfort. Physical therapy exercises are commonly used to strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve flexibility, and restore range of motion.

In some cases, doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation. If these methods do not provide relief, more advanced treatments like surgery may be considered for severe injuries or conditions.

How Is Shoulder Pain Treated With Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treats shoulder pain by focusing on restoring the balance of energy, or “Qi,” within the body. According to TCM principles, shoulder pain is often due to blockages or imbalances in the meridians that run through the shoulder area. Acupuncture is a key component of TCM and involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of blood and reduce inflammation. In addition to acupuncture, TCM may include herbal remedies, cupping, and moxibustion (burning a herb near the skin) to enhance treatment effects. These methods work together to reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, and relieve muscle tension, thereby alleviating pain and improving shoulder function.

Research supports the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating shoulder pain. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Pain Research found that acupuncture significantly reduces pain and improves shoulder function in patients with shoulder pain conditions such as rotator cuff tendinitis and shoulder impingement syndrome. The study reported that patients receiving acupuncture experienced greater pain relief compared to those receiving sham acupuncture or other conventional treatments.

On average, patients may require 6 to 12 acupuncture sessions to notice a significant reduction in shoulder pain, although the exact number can vary depending on the severity and duration of the condition. Additionally, another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine highlighted that acupuncture is more effective than no treatment or basic care for shoulder pain, further validating its role in pain management. These findings indicate that acupuncture is a viable and effective option for those suffering from shoulder pain, offering a holistic approach that not only targets symptoms but also addresses the underlying causes of pain.


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    Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain

    Shoulder pain is something that we treat a lot in clinic. Really, whether it’s from a rotator cuff tear, tendonitis in the shoulder, misalignment or kind of gluing down of the scapula, we really treat all of those things in a similar way. We’re really working to increase the blood flow and circulation and also treating the whole body.

    Oftentimes, if there’s an imbalance in the shoulder, you’re going to have pain all the way down into your hip and back, so releasing this whole area is really helpful. Oftentimes, we use different types of manual therapy techniques and even some topicals and internal herbs can be really helpful at reducing inflammation in the shoulder as well.

    Acupuncture Review


    Ben-Arie, E., Kao, P. Y., Lee, Y. C., Ho, W. C., Chou, L. W., & Liu, H. P. (2020). The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Frozen Shoulder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2020, 9790470.

    Zhang, H. N., Chen, J. G., Wang, X. Y., Fan, S., Bao, A., Li, H. N., & Wang, J. G. (2024). Efficacy comparison between acupuncture and other modalities in the treatment of rotator cuff diseases: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. American journal of translational research16(2), 599–616.

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