Is it Shoulder Pain, Bursitis, Rotator Cuff Syndrome or Frozen Shoulder

Anatomy of the Shoulder

Anatomy of the Shoulder

If you suffer shoulder pain then you are not alone. Bursitis, rotator cuff syndrome, impingement syndrome and frozen shoulder are common painful shoulder conditions. Shoulder pain is the third most common musculoskeletal problem that takes a person to their GP after back pain and knee pain. According a recent report by access economics, 29% of people with chronic pain are suffering chronic shoulder pain. When you understand how the shoulder joint is constructed you might understand why this is such a common problem.


Although the shoulder functions as a ball and socket joint providing a wide range of motion, it is not a stable ball and socket like a hip. In the hip the ball is encapsulated by a bony socket. The shoulder consists of a very shallow bony depression is supported by 4 main muscles to form a socket that encapsulates the ball, and these muscles are often referred to as the “rotator cuff”.  Injury or weakness of any one of these muscles can often be referred to as “rotator cuff syndrome” or if the most commonly affected muscle is injured it is commonly called “supra-spinatus tendonitis”. Damage to any of these structures can result in abnormal shoulder function and pain.


As the injured shoulder functions in an abnormal manner it leads to pain and reduced range of motion, and can often irritate other structures resulting in an associated painful “impingement syndrome”. There are other types of shoulder pain apart from rotator cuff syndrome such as “frozen shoulder”. To determine the cause of your shoulder pain a skilled clinician will take a detailed history of your complaint and perform specific muscle strength and range of motion testing. This will help to determine if imaging such ultrasound or MRI are required to confirm the diagnosis.


To avoid becoming one of the 29% of chronic pain suffers with shoulder pain it is important not to ignore an injured shoulder. Initially staying within a safe range of motion that doesn’t cause pain can help to prevent further injury and is key to a prompt recovery. Adequate pain relief is important not just for comfort but because in general pain inhibits repair. Exercises to strengthen weakened muscles and correct poor posture can improve shoulder function, take strain off the injured structure and prevent reoccurrence.


Overly tight muscles are another obstacle to healing, and these can be released with massage and acupuncture.  The role of acupuncture goes beyond simply treating tight muscles however, as in well-trained hands acupuncture also appears to stimulate repair, reduce pain and settle inflammation resulting in a quicker recovery.


If your shoulder pain doesn’t respond to treatment as expected you should seek another opinion from a suitably qualified health professional.

Book an Appointment Now

About Ian Murray

Ian is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner at Kenmore Centre for Health. This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.
This entry was posted in Acupuncture for Painful Conditions, blog, Men's Health, More than Chinese Medicine, Musculo-skeletal Health, Sports Injuries, Women's Health, Your Health and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.