|Let me tell you about one of my lovely patients, a woman in her early 60s who I’ll refer to as “Cindy,” who injured her shoulder when her dog suddenly lunged away from her on a walk.|
The MRI showed a “massive tear of the supraspinatus,” one of the rotator cuff muscles. Its tendon completely detached from the bone, and there was swelling in the shoulder joint. As you might imagine, this made lifting her arm nearly impossible and quite painful. After months of lack of use, the muscle tissue atrophied severely and fatty tissue infiltrated it.
What this meant for Cindy was she couldn’t raise her arm out to the side. She couldn’t put away dishes into kitchen cabinets or get her hand high enough to wash her hair. The pain radiated down to her fingers, and she would frequently wake up at night with pain. On bad days, she struggled to put on a coat.
With surgery months away at the earliest, we decided to see what a short course of acupuncture visits could do.
I began with a neuromuscular assessment of the upper body. In addition to the supraspinatus issue that the MRI indicated, I found a bunch of other stuff going on. The serratus anterior muscle, responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint wasn’t functioning properly; there were severe adhesions (“knots”) in the muscles that were picking up the slack for the injured rotator cuff (subscapularis, deltoid, levator scapula and upper trapezius). Treating these accessory muscles relieved the nerve impingement such that the pain no longer radiated into the fingers, hand, or forearm.
After two treatments in two weeks where I administered electro-acupuncture, Cindy was able to wash her hair with both hands and could lift her arms out to at least 150 degrees and cross them over her head. The various muscles that had tested weak were once again firing. I instructed her in home exercises to strengthen the muscle, which she’s doing and is beginning to re-build strength.
No surgery. No PT. Just 4 treatments with electro-acupuncture and manual work.
After 6 visits, she was able to reach across to get something out of the glove compartment of her car, put her dishes away in an overhead cabinet, and fasten her bra with much greater ease. We’re continuing to treat twice a week for another few weeks in order to continue to reduce inflammation, increase range of motion to enable muscular strength, and reduce pain levels as she starts physical therapy. She’s decided against the surgery, as she’s making so much progress.
Cool, right? While this story may be dramatic, it’s by no means extraordinary; electro-acupuncture is powerful medicine for restoring strength and functionality to even old areas of injury.