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Acupuncture Relieves Shoulder Pain, Ups Range of Motion

Acupuncture relieves shoulder pain, inflammation, and range of motion impingement. Researchers from the Yuxi Hospital of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) investigated the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of acute shoulder periarthritis. Commonly known as frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, this condition is an inflammatory disorder of the rotator cuff and surrounding tissues that leads to pain and immobility of the shoulder. The investigation reveals that acupuncture has a total effective rate exceeding 90%.

One hundred shoulder periarthritis patients were randomly divided into two equal acupuncture groups. One group received a style of acupuncture known as the Hui approach. The second group received conventional acupuncture treatments. The Hui acupuncture group had a 96% total effective rate and the standard acupuncture group had a 94% total effective rate. The scores indicate that acupuncture effectively reduces shoulder pain and improves range of motion. Moreover, the Hui acupuncture approach to care shortened the total treatment time needed to resolve the condition over standard acupuncture therapy.

A key component of the Hui acupuncture style is the elicitation of deqi at the acupuncture points. Traditional functions of this style include relieving spasms, dredging the meridians, and expelling stasis. The Hui acupuncture style for periarthritis involved the application of GB34 (Yanglingquan, Yang Mound Spring) and Ashi acupoints. The treatment protocol begins with the patient in a seated or supine position and GB34 is needled with a rapid insertion technique on the affected side.

Perpendicular insertion with 0.3 x 40 mm acupuncture needles was used. Rotating and pulling manual acupuncture techniques were applied. During rotation of the needles, patients were advised to maximize shoulder movements including stretching, raising of the arms, reaching behind the back, and other movements on the affected side. Additional movements of the needle in the range of fifteen to forty-five degrees in all four directions to a depth up to one inch were made. The additional procedure repeated the process of rotating and pulling the needle during maximization of shoulder movements on the affected side.

The Ashi part of the Hui technique involved palpation to find sensitive areas at the rotator cuff region. Needles were inserted into the areas of sensitivity with a rapid technique using 0.3 x 40 mm acupuncture needles at a perpendicular angle. Rotating and pulling were applied during the initial insertion process. Next, the needles were pulled to a level just below the surface of the skin and patients were advised to slightly stretch the shoulder joint outwards, upwards, posteriorly, and medially.

The needles were then inserted at an angle of fifteen to forty-five degrees to a depth up to one inch in all four directions during pulling and rotating manual techniques. The procedure was repeated in all four directions. Total needle retention time was twenty minutes. Acupuncture was conducted once per day for seven days.

The conventional acupuncture group received acupuncture needles at the following acupoints on the affected side with mild reinforcing and reducing techniques:

  • Jianliao, SJ14 (Shoulder Crevice)

  • Jianqian, MUE48 (Front of Shoulder)

  • Naoyu, SI10 (Upper Arm Shu)

  • Waiguan, SJ5 (Outer Pass)

  • Hegu, LI4 (Joining Valley)

Total needle time was twenty minutes per acupuncture session. Acupuncture was applied once per day for seven days.

The total effective rate for both groups included everything from significant relief of pain and improvement of rotator cuff movements to complete resolution of the condition. The Hui group had greater positive patient outcomes but the conventional acupuncture group demonstrated a very high total effective rate. Coming in at 96% and 94% respectively, the Hui acupuncture and conventional acupuncture groups demonstrated significant total effective rates.

References: Wang XY, Zhang YM, Jia YT, Wang H, Yue Q, Wu JK & Chen S. (2015). Treatment of 50 Patients with Acute Shoulder Periarthritis by Hui Acupuncture. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 31(4).

Ma Y. (2009). Yun Ling Shu · Analysis of Guan Acupuncture and Zui Technique. Journal of Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 33(5): 404-407.

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