Acupuncture for Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator Cuff

Rotator Cuff

Acupuncture should be considered a best practice treatment for many types of shoulder injury including, where damage is still relatively minor, what are commonly known as rotator cuff tears. What is commonly referred to as the “rotator cuff” actually consists of 4 tendons that come together to form a protective layer over the glenohumeral joint and to provide stability and the ability to lift and rotate the shoulder. The humerus is connected to the muscles subscapularis, teres minor, supraspinatus and infraspinatus by their respective tendons. Injuries to the “rotator cuff” involve one or more of these tendons or muscles. Inflammation of these tendons and muscles can occur with overuse, over-strain or in older adults, due to ischaemic changes- lack of blood, nutrients and oxygen to the soft tissue. Tendonitis and inflammation can in turn weaken the rotator cuff and lead to tears in the soft tissue. With a rotator cuff tear, the injury is typically accompanied by immediate and severe pain which continues to increase for 1-2 days before reaching its maximum level. The pain tends to remain very intense for a period of 5-7 days afterward and lingering pain can remain indefinitely until the rotator cuff is healed.

In my experience, untreated, a rotator cuff tear can take years to heal, or may not heal at all. Acupuncture can be an effective means of stimulating the body’s own immune system to heal tears in soft tissue more quickly and effectively by increasing blood flow and therefore oxygen uptake in areas with soft tissue damage. Improved circulation to the area of injury also facilitates removal of inflammatory products that are no longer needed.

The subscapularis muscle is the large muscle covering the shoulder blade and is in charge of medial rotation. Infraspinatus and teres minor muscles are responsible for lateral rotation. The supraspinatus muscle is in charge of abduction (raising your arm to the side) and is the muscle/ tendon most commonly affected by inflammation and tendonitis, and therefor most often torn of the rotator cuff tendons. A tear of the rotator cuff generally presents with both pain and weakness in the shoulder. There are many common assessments for rotator cuff tears such as “the empty can test” which assesses the supraspinatus. In the empty can test the patient turns his or her hand with thumb toward the ground and attempts to raise the arm against resistance. The “Drop Arm” test is another assessment of a possible tear of the supraspinatus and involves lifting the patient’s arm over head and allowing them to try and lower the arm to the side gradually. Generally with a tear in the supraspinatus, the arm will fall to the side with inability to lower it slowly. The infraspinatus and teres minor muscles are tested likewise against resistance to lateral rotation while the subscapularis is tested against medial rotation.

Once the location and nature of the rotator cuff injury has been accurately assessed, acupuncture can help speed healing of the soft tissue by helping to stimulate blood flow and oxygenation of the soft tissue as well as creating a histamine response that helps to simulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms, dilate blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Next time you or someone you know has a shoulder injury, find an experienced acupuncturist to help decrease your rehabilitation time and reduce the risk of more serious or permanent shoulder injury.

Terry  M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist

Open Sky Acupuncture, Eugene Oregon 

(541) 343-4343

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Acupuncture for anxiety

meditation-1024x1007According to the ADAA (Anxiety Disorders Association of America), anxiety affects more than 40 million people in the United States which is roughly 18% of the population. We all know what it feels like to be a little anxious at times. Anxiety in moderate doses is a natural protective reaction to situations that might be in some way dangerous or threatening to us, but when anxiety begins to interfere with everyday life activities it might be time to seek professional treatment. If anxiety begins to transform into irrational fears or begins to keep you from social engagements it is time to take action. If you have panic attacks with heart palpitations and an overwhelming fear that something is constantly wrong or about to happen to you, this is another sign of an anxiety disorder.

Western treatment for anxiety often includes therapies such as cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. In addition, western treatment often includes anti-anxiety medications from the benzodiazepine family as well as anti-depressants. Traditional Chinese Medicine however, also has a long history of treating anxiety disorders effectively and naturally.

According to TCM theory, anxiety is often associated with an imbalance in the heart energy. A qualified acupuncturist or practitioner of TCM will be able to diagnose you accurately and differentiate between “heart energy deficiency”, “blood deficiency”, “yin deficiency” or other possible conditions such as “phlegm misting the heart.” Although these diagnoses may sound rather esoteric, they are effective descriptions that help to differentiate subtle differences in an anxiety condition and therefore make treatment more effective.

Practitioners of TCM look at anxiety as not just a “mental” disorder, but as a whole body disorder, more along the lines of an internal medicine condition than just “in your head”. Not coincidentally, according to classic TCM theory, the mind and the heart center are often considered synonymous. From the perspective of TCM, it would be difficult to truly overcome anxiety without addressing the underlying physical conditions that may be contributing to the disorder. As a further note, long term use of medications from the “benzo” family and other tranquilizers that are sometimes prescribed for anxiety sufferers can further deteriorate the yin and blood of the heart center according to TCM theory. In addition these types of medications can disrupt the digestive system and intestinal flora. Poor intestinal health has long been strongly correlated with mental illness which is one more reason that a more holistic approach can sometimes provide more effective and longer lasting results.

Terry M. Chen, L.Ac.

Open Sky Acupuncture – Eugene, OR.

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What Can Acupuncture Do For You?

Women receiving acupuncture treatment

Achieving overall balance

One of the most common questions I get from clients in my clinic is “What does acupuncture treat?” The fact is that acupuncture can be beneficial for nearly anything that goes wrong with the health of the human body including mental and emotional imbalances.

The reason this ancient therapy is beneficial for such a wide variety of imbalances is that it is designed to help the body reach an overall equilibrium. Acupuncture has what can be called a nonspecific, homeostatic effect on the entire person. In other words, it can help to normalize all of the body’s systems including nervous system, cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, endocrine system, lymphatic system etc.

It is this nonspecific homeostatic affect that allows acupuncture to restore overall physical, mental and emotional balance at the same time that your acupuncturist is targeting a specific condition. Here is a short but interesting recent article describing some of the multiple benefits of acupuncture treatment

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