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Home > Newsletters > February 2005 >

Ask the Doctor

Q: I have chronic pain from a dislocated shoulder. I have done everything from minor surgery to clean out debris to steroid injections. Can acupuncture help me with the pain?

A: Viveka S. Rucker, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., Dipl. C.H. writes - Yes, it is very likely that acupuncture can help your shoulder pain. Pain relief is one of the most widely utilized functions of acupuncture in our western culture, largely due to published studies showing that acupuncture causes the release of endorphins, the body’s own natural pain killers. Specifically, acupuncture has been very helpful for both acute and chronic shoulder pain.

According to Chinese Medicine, acupuncture would help relieve pain by moving Qi (energy) and blood through meridians (energy pathways) that serve the shoulder, as pain is caused by blockage, or a lack of nourishment to the painful area. The pathogenic blockage is dispelled, and/or the deficiency is supplemented to relieve pain. Generally, if there is too much Qi stuck in one area, there is not enough in another area, and it is important to identify what is causing this imbalance. The causes may or may not be rooted solely in the shoulder. In Chinese medical theory, pain in the shoulder can, in some cases, be caused or aggravated by problems elsewhere in the body. Resolving those problems may reduce pain the shoulder as well.

Shoulder dislocation is usually caused by some kind of trauma, and acute pain related to trauma is often resolved relatively quickly with acupuncture, as the body is restored to its normal pre-trauma balance. Acupuncture can also help pain from chronic shoulder dislocation, although consistent pain relief will generally require more treatment.

From a western standpoint you are dealing with weakness in the tendons and joint capsule from being over-stretched, and adhesions that have developed in the joint. Adhesions, while painful and undesirable, are the body’s attempt to make the area strong again.

From a Chinese medicine standpoint, you are dealing with pain due to stagnation associated with one or a combination of the following: wind, cold, damp, heat, blood or phlegm. Each of these Chinese medical terms derived from nature describe a specific type of sensation, quality, and set of symptoms. Cold (which contracts), and damp (which causes a sensation of heaviness) are most commonly predominant. Your acupuncturist will differentiate how much or how little of each component is involved in your presentation in order to create a treatment protocol specialized for your condition.

There may also be a deficiency component (something that needs to be strengthened) in your overall health profile. Chronic pain or weakness often suggests other lifestyle factors or health conditions present in the overall picture that have left the body vulnerable to repeated damage, and prevented the body from healing properly or completely. The body then accommodates or adapts to this dysfunction, creating other imbalances that need to be unraveled. An acupuncturist seeks out the causes of imbalance and treats not just the local area, but the whole body in order to balance the flow of Qi, relieve pain and restore function.

Acupuncture points aimed at resolving your particular pattern of disharmony would be used along with points on the meridians that flow through the painful area of the shoulder itself, to clear the stagnation that is causing pain. In this way the pain can be addressed in a comprehensive and individualized way that both relieves pain, and supports the body in healing itself.

Western medicine holds that once over-stretched, neither the tendon nor joint capsule can shrink back to normal size again to hold the humerus in place. Whether this is true in all cases or not is uncertain, however, many individuals with ‘permanent’ structural conditions experience pain relief and healing from acupuncture, whether or not their condition is ever completely cured in a western sense.

Along with acupuncture, Chinese herbs that strengthen tendons, assist in healing and relieve pain may be very helpful. Gentle Qi Gong exercises to practice in between acupuncture treatments can also help strengthen the area and relieve pain.

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a number of modalities to help your condition.

Q: Can Chinese Medicine help my kids with frequent colds?

A:  Common childhood diseases are cold, flu, ear infection, sinus infection, bronchitis, allergy, asthma, and eczema. Chinese medicine can be very beneficial for your children. It strengthens and fortifies the immune system. This can decrease the severity and occurrence of the illness. Some children need acupuncture treatments and they tend to do well with the treatment. Powder, pill and tincture are usually prescribed for children. Herb tea is prescribed in absolutely necessary situations. Consult your doctor for more information.

This Month's Articles

February, 2005
Volume 3, Number 2

Happy New Year - Year of the Rooster

Frequently Asked Questions about Bodywork

The Tao of Love Making

Recent Research

Ask The Doctor


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