shoulder pain

Did you know that up to two out of three people in Canada will be affected by shoulder pain at some point in their lifetime? No one wants to live with shoulder pain, especially not chronic pain. Luckily, acupuncture can help.

Clinical studies have shown that this traditional Chinese medicine modality can be helpful for managing shoulder pain, particularly when combined with other treatments like physical therapy. That’s because acupuncture enhances blood flow, reduces inflammation, and triggers the release of natural painkillers in the body to treat shoulder pain and mobility without the need for pharmaceutical drugs.

If you are looking to get started with acupuncture for shoulder pain in Toronto, then get in touch or book an appointment with The Acupuncture Oasis today.

Acupuncture for Shoulder Pain Relief

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting fine needles at specific points on the body to alleviate pain and treat various shoulder disorders. Acupuncture treatment is particularly valued for its effectiveness in reducing pain intensity and improving functional mobility. This is achieved through the stimulation of certain points on the body that influence the flow of Qi (energy) and blood circulation, therefore promoting self healing and pain relief.

Research supports using acupuncture for treating shoulder pain, showing clinically significant results in upper extremity pain reduction and increased shoulder function in conditions such as rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), and post-operative pain management.

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder is made up of bones, joints, muscles, and tendons that work together to allow a wide range of movement. The main parts include the collarbone, the shoulder blade, and the upper arm bone. These bones form joints that help connect everything smoothly.

The shoulder has special muscles called the rotator cuff that help keep it stable and allow you to move your arm in many directions, in addition to small fluid-filled sacs called bursae that help reduce friction and make movement easier. This design makes the shoulder very flexible, but also means it can be easily injured.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain can arise from various causes, each affecting the shoulder in different ways. One common source of shoulder pain is injury to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments around the shoulder. This can occur through activities that involve excessive, repetitive overhead motion, such as painting, lifting, or certain sports like baseball or tennis. Overuse can lead to strains, sprains, and conditions like bursitis or tendinitis, where the tissues become inflamed and painful.

Another frequent cause of a painful shoulder is the wear and tear of the shoulder joint itself, often seen with aging. This can lead to osteoarthritis, where the cartilage that cushions the bones wears down, causing the bones to rub against each other and create pain.

Of course, traumatic injuries or falls are also a factor that could impact the wellbeing of your shoulder. A correct diagnosis is important when it comes to effectively treating shoulder pain. Your acupuncturist should be able to help you identify what is causing your shoulder pain, or can work with the diagnosis from your doctor.

Shoulder Pressure Points

pressure points

Acupuncture treats shoulder pain by targeting specific pressure points on the shoulder, each linked to the body’s energy paths. The following pressure points are utilised in acupuncture for shoulder pain.

Jian Jing

Located halfway between the neck and the edge of your shoulder on the muscle. It’s great for easing stress, neck stiffness, headaches, and shoulder pain by improving energy flow and relaxation.


Found a little down from the shoulder on the upper arm. This point is particularly good for dealing with pain and stiffness right around the shoulder, as well as conditions like inflammation.

Jian Yu

You’ll find this point on the front part of the shoulder when the arm is lifted to the side. It’s helpful for various shoulder problems, reducing swelling and improving movement.


Located on the back of the shoulder blade. It’s useful for easing pain around the shoulder blade, neck, and upper back.


Situated in the middle of the shoulder region is the muscle on the shoulder blade. This point is good for soothing pain, easing muscle tension, and helping with shoulder problems like impingement and rotator cuff issues.


Found just above the back end of the shoulder bone when the arm is raised. It’s effective for treating pain and stiffness in the shoulder and upper arm.

How Acupuncture Stimulates the Shoulder

Acupuncture works by stimulating the shoulder in ways that help reduce pain and promote healing. When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points on the shoulder, they improve blood flow to the area. This increase in blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients, helping to repair tissues and reduce inflammation, which is especially helpful for issues like tendinitis or bursitis. The needles also help relax tight muscles in the shoulder, easing pain from muscle tension or spasms and making it easier to move.

On a larger scale, acupuncture affects the whole body by triggering the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals. It also affects the nerves, changing the way pain is felt and potentially blocking pain signals to the brain and spinal cord. This can help manage pain not just in the shoulder, but throughout the body. Acupuncture can even influence hormone levels, reducing stress hormones, which helps improve overall well-being and pain management.

Certain shoulder acupuncture techniques target painful trigger points in the muscles, relieving pain and stiffness, and can help regulate the body’s immune response, decreasing inflammation. This is particularly useful for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Often moxibustion treatment is used in conjunction with acupuncture to ease pain. This involves burning Chinese herbs and using the heat to warm specific areas and stimulate circulation. By addressing both the symptoms and the root causes of shoulder pain, acupuncture provides a comprehensive approach to healing.

Types of Shoulder Injuries That Acupuncture Treats

Acupuncture treatment is effective in treating shoulder injuries and conditions, including various musculoskeletal pain disorders, and allows for treatments tailored to specific needs. Acupuncture is used to treat a variety of common shoulder issues.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Often caused by repetitive motion, this condition involves painful inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons. Acupuncture reduces this inflammation and pain, focusing on enhancing circulation and relaxing muscles around the shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

This condition causes shoulder stiffness and chronic shoulder pain, progressing through freezing, frozen, and thawing stages. Acupuncture aids particularly during the freezing and thawing stages, improving joint mobility by stimulating blood flow and loosening the joint capsule.

Post-operative Recovery

After shoulder surgery, acupuncture facilitates quicker recovery by promoting blood circulation, reducing pain, and helping manage the formation of scar tissue.

Arthritis (Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Acupuncture reduces joint inflammation and pain, improving function and quality of life in arthritis sufferers by modulating immune and inflammatory responses.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the shoulder blade compresses the soft tissues underneath. Acupuncture alleviates the resulting pain and inflammation, and can also strengthen surrounding shoulder muscles.


Caused by inflammation of the bursae, acupuncture for bursitis focuses on reducing inflammation and improving fluid movement to relieve pain.

Labral Tear

Although acupuncture can’t repair a torn labrum, it helps manage the pain and supports the surrounding shoulder tissues, focusing on reducing discomfort and promoting muscle balance.

How Long Does it Take for Acupuncture to Work for Shoulder Pain?

The time it takes for acupuncture treatment to relieve shoulder pain can vary widely among individuals. Some may experience relief immediately after a session, while others might need several sessions to notice a significant improvement. Typically, a course of treatment could involve weekly sessions over several weeks, with adjustments based on the patient’s response to the treatment. The effectiveness can also depend on the specific cause and severity of the shoulder pain.

Whether you’re suffering from chronic shoulder pain caused by rotator cuff disease, frozen shoulders or any other type of shoulder injury, acupuncture can help to alleviate and manage the pain.

The Acupuncture Oasis in Toronto specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are experts in the healing effects of acupuncture for a variety of physical, mental and emotional conditions. Book an appointment today to experience relief from your shoulder pain with non drug therapy.