From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, we generally refer to frozen shoulder as 50 shoulders because many of our patients start to develop symptoms around the age of 50. The cause of this disease is actually the accumulation of living environment, living habits, and exercise habits.
In Chinese medicine, we will use a mix of acupuncture, tuina, Chinese medicine, cupping, moxibustion, and other therapies to target the different types of patients. (Please refer to: Why am I getting Frozen Shoulder before 50?!)
Taking into consideration human’s natural 5 elements, the pain in the human body is the imbalance of Yin and Yang. Acupuncture can regulate the Yin and Yang and the deficiency and excess of the human body. Through the method of replenishing and reducing the qi in the blood, the excess or the inadequate can be reduced or boosted to balance the yin and yang of the human body back to a positive, normal state. Once this is accomplished, the pain will disappear naturally.
The use of traditional Chinese medicine is to maintain qi and nourish the blood, promote blood circulation, and clear collaterals. We will also adjust the prescription according to different symptoms:
- Wind and cold invasion – Pueraria decoction
- Wind, Cold, and Dampness Arthralgia -Juanbi Decoction Modification
- Two Deficiency of Qi and Blood – Sanbi Decoction Modified
- Blood stasis blocking collaterals – Taohong Siwu Decoction Modified
Tuina can help clear the meridians, regulate qi and blood, increase local activity, and relieve pain. Common methods include:
1. Rolling method and holding method: the shoulder and neck area and upper arm of the affected side and along the outer side of the upper arm of the affected side.
2. Kneading with palm and heel: affected side scapular area
In addition, sometimes we also use bone-setting techniques to correct the deformed bones and joints back to the correct position.
Cupping has the functions of dispelling coldness and dampness, activating and removing blood stasis, warming meridians, and dredging collaterals. Through the correct application of cupping at specific acupoints, we can stimulate nerve endings, enhance muscle irritability, and eliminate non-bacterial inflammation of muscles. This in turn strengthens the adhesion of muscle fibers and restore the local normalcy of the muscles and nerve performance. The negative pressure in cupping is also used to suck out the non-bacterial inflammatory reaction product.
Moxibustion’s mechanism is to warm the acupoints through burnt moxa leaves, which adjust people through stimulating the activity of meridian qi.
The physical and chemical functions of body disorder can enhance one’s own yang energy, thereby achieving the effect of disease prevention and treatment.
TCM treatment plans are customized according to the patient’s body diagnosis, acceptance level, and tolerance to pain. For example, those with excess wind, coldness, and dampness will be required to dispel wind and coldness from the body. We can first address the patient’s yin and yang with acupuncture to restore his joint mobility. Next, we can use a combination of moxibustion with tuina or osteopathy adjustments to relieve his pain, relax his muscles, and stimulate the nerve sensors. Patients are often prescribed Chinese medicine to regulate their internal constitution so that they can maintain and continue to enhance the balance of yin and yang in the body after leaving the clinic. If the onset of the disease is recent, patients should be feeling a significant improvement within 2-3 treatments.
Of course, the formation of frozen shoulders is related to a series of life habits. Physicians and therapists will also teach some simple stretching exercises for patients to practice on their own at home. Most movements only require 5-10 minutes of their time and can be done whilst doing housework or watching TV. A year’s accumulation of pain will normally take 3 years to be cured. Malignant diseases like frozen shoulders need a three-pronged approach of prevention + treatment + rehabilitation to be effectively controlled.