As an acupuncturist, there are certain conditions that I treat really well and frozen shoulder is one of them. It is both exciting to get a call from someone asking if I can help this condition and disheartening when I know that there are so many people suffering who don’t know that acupuncture is so effective. What is even more disheartening is that the medical community doesn’t know (yet) that acupuncture can effectively treat it quicker and with less pain than physical therapy, some surgeries and anti-inflammatories/muscle relaxants. Perhaps with time, patient feedback and future clinical studies, that will change.
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, is a gradual and prolonged inflammation of the shoulder capsule (made up of connective tissue and synovial fluid) that holds the shoulder in its socket. The stages of frozen shoulder are as follows:
Freezing – A person begins to feel more and more pain and less range of motion. This onset comes on somewhere between 6 weeks to 9 months.
Frozen – Pain may improve during this stage, but the stiffness remains. This stage can last 4 to 6 months
Thawing – Range of motion starts to improve. Full mobility returns gradually.
In all, frozen shoulder can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years! Physical therapy, steroid injections and NSAIDS may or may not decrease this timeline which can add to a person’s frustration in performing their basic daily activities.
In my experience as an acupuncturist, treating frozen shoulder takes time and patience, but when I say that, I mean 8 weeks of treatment two times a week. Two months to restore shoulder function via acupuncture compared to in as long as two years for many people is welcome news to hear.
While clinical trials are still coming in to support the use of acupuncture for frozen shoulder, there is still research that needs to be done. For now, there are the below trials which show positive outcome for acupuncture in the condition of frozen shoulder.
Acupuncture Unlocks Frozen Shoulder Pain Research
Immediate Relief In Adhesive Capsulitis by Acupuncture
Investigation of the Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the treatment of Frozen Shoulder