Kaufman: Thawing out movement in a frozen shoulder
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where there is stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint leading to a limited range of motion in the joint.
Frozen shoulder usually only affects one shoulder, but some people may eventually develop it in the other shoulder as well.
This condition usually develops slowly, over a period of months.
The shoulder starts out in the painful stage, where pain occurs with movement and the range of motion begins to become limited.
Gradually there is a decrease in pain along with a drastic decrease in the range of motion of the shoulder.
Frozen shoulder can occur after an injury to the shoulder, a surgery or an arm fracture, or it may occur in people with other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, thyroid problems, and Parkinson’s disease.
Frozen shoulder is also more common over the age of 40.
With frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule (the connective tissue in our shoulder joint) becomes inflamed and stiff, which in turn can cause adhesions to develop between the joint’s surfaces and a decrease in the natural lubricating fluids in the joint, all of which contribute to the pain and reduced mobility.
At night the shoulder might hurt when sleeping on the painful side and there can be a numbness or tingling in the arm and hand.
With the limited use and mobility, strength is lost in the surrounding muscles.
The treatment in Western 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.
Luckily, acupuncture can be very helpful for resolving 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 organs.
A problem in the large intestine can result, for example, in constipation, but also in a frozen shoulder.
Even a problem in the stomach can eventually cause shoulder complaints, because its meridian runs close to the shoulder.
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.
The significant difference between Western medicine and Chinese medicine is that Western medicine will treat the shoulder mainly locally, while Chinese medicine will treat the whole body, addressing internal factors that contribute the health and healing of the shoulder area.
By doing so, we have the opportunity to improve overall health and strengthen the shoulder to prevent future problems from re-occurring.
By helping the body to return to its own natural equilibrium, acupuncture can help to produce long lasting results for frozen shoulder conditions.
James Kaufman is a registered acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St.