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How Acupuncture Eased My Frozen Shoulder: Case Study

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 21 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
Acupuncture Shoulder Frozen Pain

Paula Wynne has suffered from shoulder pain for years, and believes it all started due to bad posture. At the time all her problems began in 2007, she was working as a PR manager for a hotel group, and had got into the habit of not sitting properly at her desk.

“My feet were facing forward and my computer was to the left, so I had to constantly strain toward the left, and my right shoulder was at a very odd angle,” says Paula, now 46, who lives in Wiltshire.

“My shoulder was in a lot of pain, so I went to a specialist and had a scan. They found out that the collar bone and shoulder bone were impinging the joint, so decided that prescribing cortisone injections would be the best option for me.”

The first injections worked for a month or two, but they were incredibly painful: Paula actually fainted after the initial one. When they stopped working, her doctor decided that cortisone was no longer an option, and that the next step would be surgery.

Trying to Allow More Movement

“With an impingement like mine they take a bit of bone off the shoulder and a bit off the collar bone to give the joint more room to move, to allow it movement and flexibility in the joint. I was scheduled for an operation in January, 2008, and was really hopeful it would solve my problems,” Paula says.

Unfortunately, the operation didn’t turn out the way she planned, and Paula ended up with a dislocated collar bone which had to be reconstructed with metal plates.

After the operation she spent six months with her arm in a sling, and as a result developed a frozen shoulder, which resulted in even more surgery. Although she was scheduled to begin physiotherapy, after the second operation she was in so much pain that became impossible.

“I tried medication such as sleeping pills as I just couldn’t take the pain. Then someone asked if I had tried any alternative methods. I had to try something, as I was really really desperate. I just couldn’t take it anymore,” she says.

Various Alternative Methods

“Someone suggested reiki, another person suggested shiatsu massage. Both were helpful, but it was the reiki lady who told me that acupuncture would be the best thing for me, as she had had a frozen shoulder and it had worked for her.

“I am terrified of needles, but after much soul-searching I decided to give it a go. I was told to contact the Acupuncture Association to get a registered practitioner, so contacted them, got a few people in my area, and interviewed them over the phone.”

Because her shoulder was still incredibly painful, Paula was frightened of the needles causing even more pain. “I found an excellent guy and told him in no uncertain terms that if he hurt me, he wouldn’t see me again. But he didn’t, and acupuncture turned around what had been months of pain, discomfort and endless sleepless nights.

“Within a few weeks I was able to start physiotherapy, which I couldn't do before as I couldn’t even lift my right arm waist-high," Paula says.

Still Sacred of Needles

Paula says the acupuncturist saved her and she now vouches for the therapy - even though she is still scared of needles. "It doesn’t hurt, only the needles placed around bones gave me a jolt. But when my acupuncturist discovered that, he found other places to puncture me.

“All in all, acupuncture is excellent for pain and sleeplessness, and gives an all-round energy boost. After five months of sessions with my acupuncturist, I was then able to start recovery in a normal way.”

Paula started her acupuncture sessions in May, 2008, and within the first month she started to have increased movement, and was feeling pain relief and energy starting to move around her body. She was even able to move her arm slightly, which was a huge improvement and a big leap onto the recovery road.

In July, Paula underwent a frozen shoulder operation, which is a manipulation under anaesthetic, then had acupuncture after that and was able to start physiotherapy. She had another operation in October, 2008 to cut the tissue around the shoulder, as the manipulation did not free up the shoulder entirely. Then back onto acupuncture and physiotherapy.

“I personally think the shoulder is nor frozen anymore, or only a little bit. It took until March, 2009 until I had full movement and I still have some problems, but it's a lot better than it used to be.

"I still cannot sleep on my right side, and have troubles moving my arm around my back to do up my bra. But things have improved almost 100 percent, and I know a lot of that is down to acupuncture. Having acupuncture was the best decision I made."

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