Acupuncture for the treatment of shoulder pain

Written by Chris Fehres | 10 September, 2020

Acupuncture Shoudler

Shoulder pain is very common and can be defined as pain occurring in and around the articular surfaces of the shoulder girdle, including the glenohumeral (socket), acromioclavicular (AC) and sternoclavicular (SC) joints (Lathia, Jung & Chen 2009, p. 613).

Common causes of shoulder pain include adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), rotator cuff strain or tear, impingement syndrome, subacromial bursitis, glenohumeral osteoarthritis and biceps tendonitis (Lathia, Jung & Chen 2009, p. 613).

Disorders of the shoulder muscles and tendons (rotator cuff) are considered to be one of the most common causes of pain and they have a major impact on quality of life (Fu et al. 2014, p.3 ). These conditions become more common with increased age or certain work-related and sporting activities and are characterised by pain, limited strength and movement, and loss of shoulder function (Vas 2018, p. 887).

As the joint ligaments and surrounding capsule in the shoulder are relatively weak, the rotator cuff muscles are the primary stabilisers of the glenohumeral joint (Schuenke, Schulte & Schumacher 2014, p. 262). Due to its high mobility in comparison to its relatively low stability, shoulder joint dislocations are a common occurrence, making up approximately 45% of total joint dislocations in the entire body (Schuenke, Schulte & Schumacher 2014, p. 262).

Studies have shown that acupuncture can provide pain relief, improve range of motion and speed up recovery time. The Acupuncture Evidence Project shows that there is moderate evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of shoulder pain and shoulder impingement syndrome (early stage with exercise) (McDonald & Janz 2017, p. 2). Electroacupuncture is also often used in the treatment of injuries as it has been found to release powerful pain-relieving substances within the body (Fehres 2020).

There are a wide range of factors that determine the amount of time and treatments required for any patient’s condition. Duration and severity of the condition play a big part in determining the length and extent of a treatment plan. If the condition is less severe and has only been present for a short amount of time, then a greater response with faster recovery time is more likely. With chronic and more severe conditions, weeks or perhaps even months of consistent, yet less frequent treatments may be required in order to restore full function or for the condition to be manageable.


Fehres, C 2020, ‘Acupuncture: Powerful Placebo or Potent Pain Killer?’, Fehresian Energetics Website, viewed 20 June 2020,

Fu, Q, Shi, G, Li, Q, He, T, Liu, B, Sun, S, Wang, J, Tan, C, Yang, B & Liu, C 2014, ‘Acupuncture at local and distal points for chronic shoulder pain: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial’, BioMed Central, Vol. 15, No. 130, viewed 20 June 2020,

Lathia, A, Jung, S & Chen, L 2009, ‘Efficacy of Acupuncture as a Treatment for Chronic Shoulder Pain’, THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp.613 – 618, viewed 20 June 2020,

McDonald, J & Janz, S 2017, ‘The Acupuncture Evidence Project: Plain English Summary’, AACMA Website, viewed 21 April 2017,

Schuenke M, Schulte, E & Schumacher, U 2014, ​Atlas of Anatomy: General Anatomy and Musculoskeletal System​, 2nd Ed, Thieme, New York.

Vas, J, Ortega, C, Olmo, V, Perez-Fernandez, F, Hernandez, L, Medina, I, Seminario, J, Herrera, A, Luna, F, Perea-Milla, E, Mendez, C, Madrazo, F, Jimenez, C, Ruiz, M & Aguilar, I 2008, ‘Single-point acupuncture and physiotherapy for the treatment of painful shoulder: a multicentre randomized controlled trial’, Rheumatology, Vol. 47, pp. 887–893, viewed 20 June 2020,

Chris Fehres

Having completed his Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Acupuncture from Endeavour College of Natural Health in 2015, Chris graduated with distinction and was awarded the medal of academic excellence for highest achievement in acupuncture across Australia. He has participated as an alumni representative for the Course Advisory Committees for both Acupuncture and Bio-sciences departments, as well as having been chosen as the focus for Endeavour's 2017 - 18 Graduate Stories write-up. Going back to where it all began, he currently tutors for Clinical Examination at Endeavour College's Brisbane campus alongside some of the very lecturers that taught him.

Chris has always had a passion for the inner workings of the human body, directing his focus to the ongoing study of human anatomy and physiology and how these systems are influenced by acupuncture. While capable of treating a wide range of conditions with acupuncture, his passion is treating musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Chris runs a boutique acupuncture clinic from his home in Sherwood, Brisbane called Acupuncture Sherwood.

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