A simple waving movement with your arm raised up can be painful and difficult for patients suffering from frozen shoulder. The limited range of motion of arms also cause tremendous amount of inconvenience to one’s daily life like putting a clothes on or brushing your teeth.
Frozen shoulder is the commonly used term for adhesive capsulitis, named for thickening and contracture of the capsule, the connective tissue surrounding the bony structures of the shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder is usually painful, but stiffness and restriction in movement are the primary characteristics resulting from the capsule contracture and are often likened to the immobilization of freezing versus the loosening of thawing. The disorder primarily affects people past the age of 40, particularly women; certain diseases increase the incidence of frozen shoulder, especially diabetes and thyroid diseases.
Regular treatment of painful shoulder
The treatment in conventional medicine consists of pain management by using painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. To regain mobility, physiotherapy or acupuncture may be recommended. A frozen shoulder that isn’t treated well can become a lengthy condition.
The prevention of frozen shoulder
In China it is called 50 year shoulder because people tend to get it at middle age. While during my practice in Slovenia, I notice many patients got their first onset of frozen shoulder around their 40s. Around the 40 years old is the time when our body’s energy slowly starts to decline. So the best way to prevent frozen shoulder is to get preventive treatment to restore and protect your system’s energy.
The most important thing in avoiding frozen shoulder is keeping it moving. Do gentle range of motion exercises every day, to keep the shoulder joint fully mobile. If you injure your shoulder, get treatment to heal it quickly. Avoid putting ice on it. Ice, though popular in the West, is considered harmful by the Chinese medical practitioners. It causes blood to coagulate and tendons to stiffen.
What can TCM do for frozen shoulder?
There are several meridians (energy pathways) running over the shoulder or close to the shoulder. When the qi-energy and blood flow in these meridians is obstructed, problems begin to arise. This obstruction can be the result of an underlying problem in one or more of the related systems. In other words, if we have a constitutional weakness in our body due either to genetics or to the accumulated effects of our lifestyle, it can create the conditions for a problem to occur. Because there are many meridians that run over or near the shoulder, internal weaknesses or imbalances can create a weakness in the shoulder, leaving it prone to injury.
An acupuncturist investigates where exactly there is improper functioning within the patient and then will treat the underlying organ problems to get the blood and energy flowing again in the meridians. By increasing circulation and blood flow to the shoulder and reducing inflammation, we can relieve the symptoms of pain and increase mobility in the shoulder, setting the stage for further healing.
The significant difference between conventional medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that conventional medicine will treat the shoulder mainly locally, while in TCM we will treat the deeper systemic problems together with the meridians, addressing internal factors that contribute to the health and healing of the shoulder area. In fact we will treat the whole person and their imbalances, stimulating the body to return to its own natural equilibrium. By going to the core of the problem, relief through acupuncture can be long lasting if treated properly.
How TCM manages frozen shoulder
In acute condition (within 2 weeks of onset), the herbal medicine with 2 to 3 acupuncture treatments will be able to improve the range of movement of frozen shoulder and alleviated the pain in most cases. The prognosis for early stage of frozen shoulder treatment by Chinese medicine is very positive.
However, in Chronic Condition (onset more than 3 months to years), the treatments of the cause would take much longer. We suggest 8-10 treatments for one treatment course. Usually it takes 1 treatment course to get a satisfactory result but sometimes more is necessary.
If you have interest or questions about TCM for frozen shoulder, please do not hesitate to contact us.