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What Are the Benefits of Acupuncture for Frozen Shoulder?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many individuals embrace alternative therapy, in which medical practices are used that derive from culture and tradition rather than hard science. Acupuncture is one common form of alternative medicine implemented for a wide variety of ailments, including muscular pain. Supporters of acupuncture for frozen shoulder and similar conditions claim that the therapy can relieve damaging tension in muscular and skeletal areas. Better yet, these benefits are achieved naturally and without the potentially damaging effects of conventional medical treatments. Some scientific evidence even supports the use of acupuncture for frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that impacts the area around the shoulder joint. Disease or injury may create conditions that cause this affliction, but individuals past middle age are generally most vulnerable. Symptoms impact the shoulder and include pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.

Healing from a frozen shoulder is a slow process that could take years, so some degree of intervention is advisable. Often, when traditional medicine does not provide adequate treatment or patients object for other reasons, acupuncture may be a solution. This ancient Chinese healing method operates on the philosophy that energy paths exist in the body. Skilled individuals can unblock these paths by inserting needles into select areas of the body.

Acupuncture is believed to have a moistening balm-like effect on agitated muscle tendons. Scientific evidence may somewhat back this theory. Frozen shoulder is often characterized by painful and somewhat tender spots. Putting any type of pressure in these areas — including needles — can often lessen pain. This effect could be caused by a relaxation effect that such pressure puts on tight muscles and joints. Some more conventional forms of medicine even use a modified form of acupuncture with electrical stimulation rather than needles.

Other scientific explanations could also back up the healing effects of acupuncture. Most scientists believe that forces exist in the body that can control pain. These materials are hormones, neurotransmitters, or natural pain-relieving endorphins. Many researchers might agree with acupuncturists that needle insertion can help treat pain. They simply believe that the needle stimulation unlocks the release of the aforementioned materials by the nervous system.

Advocates of acupuncture for frozen shoulder point to the technique’s alleged success rate. In some studies, researchers claim that over half of patients treated with acupuncture techniques in a trial run demonstrate drastic improvement. Further, they claim, almost all patients show at least some degree of improvement. Many of these reports focus on a form of acupuncture where needles are inserted into a particular point on the leg. Studies have also been conducted that compare acupuncture with other forms of treatment, and these studies also seem to support the benefits of this therapy.

Another proposed benefit of acupuncture for frozen shoulder is its potential healing properties for the entire body. Acupuncture uses proposed natural energy pathways in the body. Therefore, any injections theoretically will travel through various body parts, cleansing negative material along the way. In addition, acupuncture can benefit overall health because it often takes less time and requires less rigorous treatment sessions than some other forms of treatment.

Alternative healing methods such as acupuncture for frozen shoulder are preferred by some individuals because the methods rely on natural, holistic medicine. Pharmaceutical treatments, for example, often present a host of undesirable side effects, and some drugs even pose a risk to the patient. In contrast, the only major risks of acupuncture result if unsterilized needles are used or if inexperienced individuals carry out the method. Otherwise, side effects of acupuncture are nearly non-existent. Some individuals also object to using traditional medicine on spiritual or moral grounds, so acupuncture could provide a sound alternative.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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