The extensive and versatile mobility of the shoulder joint comes with a high risk of injuries and other issues that may cause pain. Shoulder pain can disrupt your ability to do daily activities. The traditional Chinese medicine suggests using acupuncture to relieve the pain. Here are a few facts on the effects of acupuncture and shoulder pain.

Structure of Shoulder Joint

The joint of the shoulder is considered a ball and socket joint; it is the most mobile joint in the body. It connects the upper arm (humerus) to the body and is a complex joint (glenohumeral joint). There are three bones involved, the scapula, humerus, and clavicle: making up this joint. The scapula forms a socket called the glenoid, which is covered by cartilage. Many muscles support this joint, allowing the freedom of movement and mobility of the shoulder.

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that play a major part in the function of shoulder movement and posture. Other muscles such as the pectoralis major and minor, serratus anterior, trapezius, rhomboids, and sternocleidomastoid are also involved in shoulder function; deficiency or excess (weak or tight/overactive) of any of these muscles can lead to dysfunction of the shoulder, causing pain and discomfort.

Causes and Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

There are many causes and symptoms of shoulder pain; some pathologies that lead to pain are impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injury, bicipital tendinopathy, subacromial bursitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and degenerative changes (osteoarthritis). These can be caused by falling on your arm/shoulder leading to straining of the muscles and ligaments, overuse or repetitive movements can lead to tendinopathies, overactive or weak muscles involved in the shoulder can lead to changes in posture that results in chronic pain/discomfort. Impingement syndrome can occur, a type of radiculopathy from pinched nerves.

If something goes wrong with your shoulder, it may affect your ability to move freely and cause a lot of discomfort or pain. The joint is susceptible to injuries and fractures of the collar bone (clavicle) or humerus, which may also lead to acute pain.

Acupuncture: The traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM explains that a healthy human body is the result of a harmonious balance of complementary extremes of yin and yang of the universal life force called qi (chi). When this life force is disturbed, it causes illness. Qi flows through certain defined pathways called meridians in your body. These pathways and the flow of qi can be accessed through acupuncture points in the body. An acupuncturist inserts needles in these points as per the selected treatment pathway, to rebalance the energy flow. This stimulates the blood flow and triggers the body’s natural painkillers such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphin. Further, it balances the muscles and ligaments to resume normal function of the joints.

Acupuncture and Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture is a complementary treatment method that is increasingly used in the day-to-day management of pain. The benefits of acupuncture in shoulder pain relief and improved range of motion has been proven. A randomized controlled trial cited by PubMed ( concludes that contralateral acupuncture has demonstrated beneficial effects in the treatment of chronic shoulder pain both in terms of pain and function of the joint. Acupuncture can also reduce the inflammation in your joints including shoulder, wrist, knee and hip by improving the blood flow to the joints and muscles. If the inflammation is not cleared up, you still have chronic pain after shoulder, knee or hip surgery.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. Graduated from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Li Zheng now has 26 years of clinical experience. She holds a PhD in neuroscience from the US and is a Harvard Medical School-trained researcher and a professor at the New England School of Acupuncture. Her two practices are located in Needham, MA, and Boca Raton, FL. For more information please visit:

Jessica Ward is a second-year student studying Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA), now part of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). Prior to starting graduate school for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Jessica studied Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she graduated in 2015 with her Bachelor of Science degree. She then worked as a full-time personal trainer in Boston for 3 years, further developing her knowledge of the human body and biomechanics. Jessica has done many internships since beginning her studies of Chinese Medicine, including one semester with Dr Li Zheng at Boston Chinese Acupuncture.