Rotator cuff tendinitis is an injury that plagues athletes and non-athletes alike. It most often occurs from repetitive actions like throwing a ball, lifting, or even sitting at a computer. But the good news is that acupuncture can help. I believe that acupuncture for shoulder pain, and specifically, rotator cuff tendonitis, is possibly the most effective and safest treatment available.
What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that connect the shoulder to the humerus of the arm: the suprspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscle. These muscles stabilize the arm while it moves.
How does an injury develop?
Rotator cuff tendinitis is an injury to the tendons, but the muscles can also be injured. Injuries can develop from an acute sudden injury like falling or lifting something too heavy. As I mentioned, it can also happen from repetitive movements like throwing a ball.
From the injury, one may develop pain, weakness, difficultly moving the arm, and irritation. If left untreated, it may become worse. Due to lack of motion of the arm, you may loose muscles mass and develop long term weakness. Also, I have seen rotator cuff and neck injuries lead to wrist problems and arm pain.
Acupuncture and rotator cuff tendinitis
Acupuncture works great for rotator cuff tendinitis. First, it works by increasing the circulation to the area and decreasing inflammation in the tendons. Secondly, acupuncture may stimulate regrowth of the cells and tissues in an injured area. And also, it helps to reduce pain. Sometimes in pain conditions, the central nervous system remembers the pain, even if the injury is healed. Acupuncture may help to reteach the brain and nervous system to be healthy again.
Research on Acupuncture for Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
There is a wonderful study done on acupuncture for rotator cuff tendinitis published in 1999 in the journal Pain.
52 people were enrolled and received acupuncture 2 times per week for 4 weeks. In this study, they used an interesting placebo needle. When the acupuncturist goes to insert the needle, the tip of it retracts, so there is no needle insertion. The acupuncture group’s pain was reduced much more than the placebo acupuncture group.
In addition to acupuncture and acupressure, it is important to include stretches and exercises. In my next post, I will write about the 3 essential shoulder stretches for shoulder and rotator cuff rehabilitation.