SHOULDER PAIN BUT NO TRAUMA
A patient in his mid-fifty’s attended the clinic. He claims of difficulty lifting his shoulder and pain that disturbs his sleep to the point of waking up several times despite never having history of trauma. He thought the discomfort would resolve after several days since it was more stiffness than pain in the beginning. But as time progressed, the pain worsened, and taking a shower or even lifting a light coffee mug became difficult—thus visiting the clinic. “Frozen Shoulder” applies to this patient.
Frozen shoulder refers to pain in shoulder joints without injuries, difficulty of moving the arm, and it is common to those in their fifty’s. However, the age group has decreased to forty’s and even thirty’s. The reason is half of the day is spent sitting in front of the computer, which puts high risk of frozen shoulder.
The official name of the disease is adhesive capsulitis, also known as Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. Cause of Frozen Shoulder is damage of surrounding tissue due to overuse of shoulder, and age promotes degeneration of the damaged tissue, thus developing to Frozen Shoulder. In Oriental Medicine, the cause of Frozen Shoulder is blockage of the meridian due to evil qi such as cold, damp, or phlegm, and the qi in the shoulder area gets coagulated.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder includes sharp needle-like and achy pain when lifting the arm at vertical angle, and the entire shoulder feels stiff and painful. Linking hands with both arms toward the back is difficult, and wearing and taking off shirts is hard because of limited motion of the shoulder joint. In worse situation, the adhesion of articular capsule makes lifting the arm become difficult and severe pain can prevent one’s sleep.
Frozen Shoulder itself is not a serious disease. This is because mild temporary symptoms can be resolved automatically without treatment as the tough tissue loosens up with time. However, receiving treatment at early stage is beneficial because improper treatment can prolong the pain and develop into a worse disease that can affect lifestyle.
Korean Medicine treatment for Frozen Shoulder implements acupuncture treatment, cupping therapy, and herbal therapy together. In Haeseong Center, MSAT (Motion Style Acupuncture Treatment) improves mobility of the joint, allowing one to lift the arm higher. MSAT, which is an acupuncture technique requiring the patient to move continuously while receiving acupuncture treatment, is especially effective in loosening up stagnated muscles and in alleviating pain.
Herbal therapy for Frozen Shoulder helps accelerate blood circulation to strengthen the muscle by moving stagnated qi, and it also protects the bones and cartilage to accelerate the secretion of joint fluid and supply of nutrition. Prevention is key by paying attention to treatment as well as lifestyle habits. Daily proper posture and frequent movement of the shoulder to loosen up stiff muscles are beneficial. If you stop moving because it hurts, then symptoms worsen. If you work in the computer or sit by the desk for a long time, then make sure to have enough break time to loosen up the shoulder joint. In summertime, especially, avoid working at a cold place with strong air conditioner.
The following is an herbal tea helpful in Frozen Shoulder: Boil 1 Liter of water with 20g of Mu Gua (Chinese Quince), 12g of Jiang Huang (Turmeric), and 12g of Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig) for 30 minutes and drink like a tea.
Hot pack is better than ice pack for Frozen Shoulder. Applying gauze with crushed green onion roots and ginger over the painful area helps promote blood circulation, which warms the shoulder and alleviates pain very effectively. More than anything, prevention is important: take a lower-body bath for minutes everyday to relax the body, and pick up the habit of stretching to loosen up the neck and shoulder muscles.
Published by KoreaTimes under <Health Column> on May 13, 2014.