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Understanding Shoulder Joint and Shoulder Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Acupuncture treatment

The Shoulder Joint: A Complex and Mobile Structure

The shoulder joint is considered to be the most mobile joint in the human body. Comprising of bones, joints, cartilage, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, it allows for a wide range of movements. However, when something goes wrong with the shoulder, it can lead to pain and limited mobility. Unfortunately, as we age, the soft tissues surrounding the shoulder are prone to degeneration, making older individuals more susceptible to shoulder problems. Soft tissue injuries around the shoulder are quite common and often result in shoulder pain. This pain can manifest gradually or suddenly and may range from mild to severe, often accompanied by restricted motion. Shoulder pain is a common and often debilitating condition that can affect people of all ages and lifestyles.

Causes of Shoulder Pain:

Rotator Cuff Injuries: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and facilitating movement. Injuries to the rotator cuff, such as tears or strains, are common causes of shoulder pain. These injuries can occur due to overuse, trauma, or the aging process.

Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder, known as tendinitis, is another frequent cause of shoulder pain. Repetitive overhead movements, such as those involved in sports like swimming or baseball, can contribute to the development of tendinitis.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis): Frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It often develops gradually, limiting the range of motion. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not always clear, but it can be associated with factors such as diabetes, injury, or prolonged immobility.

Arthritis: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the shoulder joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Arthritis in the shoulder is more common in older adults but can also occur in younger individuals due to various factors.

Bursitis: Bursitis involves inflammation of the bursa, small sacs of fluid that cushion and reduce friction between bones, tendons, and muscles. When the bursa in the shoulder becomes inflamed, it can result in pain and discomfort.

Symptoms of Shoulder Pain:

The symptoms of shoulder pain can vary depending on the underlying cause, but common indicators include:

Pain or discomfort in the shoulder joint

Limited range of motion

Swelling or inflammation

Muscle weakness

Stiffness or aching sensations

Frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by the thickening and stiffening of tissues surrounding the shoulder joint. It is a painful condition that typically presents with shoulder pain and restricted shoulder movement. Individuals with frozen shoulder often experience persistent stiffness in the shoulder joint, making everyday tasks such as dressing, driving, and sleeping uncomfortable. In severe cases, some individuals may even find it impossible to move their shoulder at all. This condition occurs when the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed, swollen, thickened, and tightened. As a result, there is less space for the upper arm bone in the shoulder joint, leading to stiffness and pain. The symptoms of frozen shoulder can vary significantly but generally worsen gradually over time. This condition affects approximately 2% of adults and is particularly common around the age of 50.

Acupuncture can effectively release shoulder pain and improve shoulder movement and restore shoulder joint function.

Key Muscles Involved in Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is a common issue that can significantly affect daily activities and overall quality of life. Understanding the muscles involved in shoulder pain is crucial for effective diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

The Shoulder Complex: An Overview

The shoulder is one of the most flexible joints in the body, allowing a wide range of motion. This flexibility, however, comes at the cost of stability, making the shoulder susceptible to injuries and pain. The shoulder complex comprises several muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work together to facilitate movement and maintain stability.

Key Muscles Involved in Shoulder Pain

Rotator Cuff Muscles:

Supraspinatus: Assists in abducting the arm and stabilizing the shoulder joint.

Infraspinatus: Aids in external rotation of the shoulder.

Teres Minor: Works alongside the infraspinatus for external rotation.

Subscapularis: Responsible for internal rotation of the shoulder.


Divided into anterior, middle, and posterior fibers, the deltoid is the main muscle responsible for lifting the arm and providing shoulder strength.


Extending from the neck to the mid-back, the trapezius supports the shoulder and upper back. It helps in scapular elevation, rotation, and retraction.


Located between the shoulder blades, the rhomboids retract the scapula, contributing to shoulder stability and posture.

Biceps Brachii:

While primarily a flexor of the elbow, the biceps also plays a role in shoulder flexion and stabilization.

Latissimus Dorsi:

This large back muscle helps in internal rotation, adduction, and extension of the shoulder.

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