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Acupuncture for the Treatment of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is an extremely common complaint which can be quite debilitating. It is characterised by physical discomfort in and around the articular surfaces of the shoulder girdle, including the joint itself and all the tendons, muscles and ligaments that provide it structure and function. Often caused by degeneration or trauma, shoulder pain can be broadly categorised into the following conditions:

1. Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis / Periarthritis of the shoulder)

This is an inflammatory condition of the gleno-humeral joint which is extremely common. Patients with frozen shoulder typically present with severe pain, stiffness and a loss in range of movement which is usually a direct result of a thickening, scarring or tightness of the joint capsule. It often occurs as a result of a sprain or after long periods immobility (after surgery or arm fracture). It can also be associated with certain medical conditions such as cardiac disease, menopause, perimenopause, auto immune conditions, thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

2. Rotator Cuff Disorders

The rotator cuff is formed by the convergence of the infraspinatus, supraspinatus and teres minor tendons and the subscapularis muscles of the shoulder. Disorders of the rotator cuff often occur when its tendons or muscles become damaged or irritated. This usually happens as a direct result of excessive use, trauma or degeneration. Such disorders include tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons), calcific tendonitis (calcium build up in the tendons), impingement syndrome (tendon is squeezed and rubs against the bone) and partial or complete tears of the muscles or tendons.

3. Bursitis of the Shoulder Joint

This is a painful condition which occurs when the bursa (small sacs filled with fluid) within the shoulder joint become inflamed. It is often caused through overuse, trauma or impingement syndrome.  As well as being characterised by localised joint pain, bursitis of the shoulder is often associated with other symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, redness as well as pain associated with overhead activities and whilst sleeping at night.

4. Shoulder impingement syndrome

This occurs when there is impingement upon the bursa or tendons in the shoulder from bones of the shoulder. Essentially it is a combination of rotator cuff tendonitis and bursitis within the shoulder joint and is characterised by localised pain and restricted movement. Often it is caused by overuse syndrome linked to activities such as swimming, lifting, painting, tennis and other overhead activities.

Acupuncture and Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture can be beneficial in addressing many of the common shoulder disorders. This is by virtue of the fact that (a) it works extremely well on reducing pain and inflammation and (b) it activates the intrinsic healing abilities of the body. It also is a viable alternative to prescription medications which can be associated with adverse side effects. Indeed, it offers an individualised and targeted approach to resolving shoulder pain by needling specific acupuncture points at the site of the pain as well as distal to it. As a result, localised pain and inflammation are reduced and the repair of the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments is initiated.

Clinical Research

A systematic review published in 2017 observed that acupuncture when used in conjunction with other management strategies can be a safe and effective treatment for shoulder pain in the short to medium term (2). Regarding frozen shoulder pathologies, a technical report prepared for the Accident Compensation Corporation, New Zealand noted that acupuncture or electroacupuncture, alone or in combination with physiotherapy or electrotherapy, can be effective for reducing pain, improving range of motion and function in patients with frozen shoulder when compared to physiotherapy or electrotherapy alone (3). This report also noted that for rotator cuff disorders acupuncture and electroacupuncture are more effective than sham/placebo acupuncture in reducing pain and improving function and quality of life in the short and long term (3). In reference to shoulder impingement syndrome a 2015 study advocates the use of acupuncture as a non-operative treatment option in the early stages of treatment (4).



2 Rubio A, Mansfield M, Lewis J. (2017) Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of shoulder pain: A systematic review of published randomised clinical trials. Physiotherapy (United Kingdom):e141-e2. (Conference abstract)

3 The International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (2018). Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture Interventions for the Treatment of Musculoskeletal Conditions. Technical Report. Prepared for the Accident Compensation Corporation, New Zealand

4 Dong W, Goost H, Lin XB, Burger C, Paul C, Wang ZL, et al. (2015) Treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome: a PRISMA systematic review and network meta-analysis. Medicine. 2015 Mar;94(10):e510

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Find us

Address: 214/100 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne


Welcome to the Innate Harmony website: the website of Danielle Baker, Registered Acupuncturist (AHPRA). Danielle has been providing acupuncture services in East Melbourne for over 15 years. She offers expertise and experience utilising Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine to address a wide range of health concerns with a particular emphasis on women’s health, fertility, stress management and pain related disorders.

Service Areas

Melbourne, CBD, Richmond, South Yarra, Fitzroy, Carlton, Hawthorn, Kew, Prahran, Abbotsford, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Toorak, Brunswick, Richmond.


Services Provided

Electro Acupuncture
Herbal Medicine (Pill and capsule formulas)
Chinese Dietary Therapy
Lifestyle Advice
Food as Medicine

To find out more about the conditions we treat, please call us on 96504111 to speak to Danielle directly or complete the online form.


Service Hours

Monday to Friday: 10.00am to 7.00pm
Saturday: 8.30am to 3.00pm
(IVF support treatments available outside these hours by appointment)
Address: 214/100 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne

Phone: (03) 9650 4111