Orthopedics & Pain

Orthopedic injuries to the body fall into two primary areas in Chinese medicine:

  1. An obstruction to the function of the area, and
  2. A weakness in the area.

An obstruction is something that congests the area such as inflammation and edema. Arthritis and acute trauma both fall into this area, as do bone spurs and nodules.

In Chinese medical vernacular we often refer to these as Heat or Damp or Blood Stasis. Sprains, contusions, even fractures fall into these categories and can benefit greatly from acupuncture.

Case Study:

“Lance” 65-year-old man with right shoulder pain for one month after a skiing fall.

Diagnosis: Torn Rotator Cuff

Range of motion of shoulder showed the following:

No ability of lateral flexion without pain of 4/10 where 10 is unbearable. Flexion required maximum lifting of the shoulder.

Anterior Flexion (reaching forward) allowed lifting to 45 degrees when pain became unbearable.

Posterior Flexion (reaching behind) allowed minimal movement when pain became unbearable.

Daily tasks such as getting dressed and household chores were very difficult and in some cases not possible.

This is a classic sports injury. Falls often results in everything from broken clavicles, broken wrists, torn ACLs, to sprained ankles. Not to mention your simple garden variety repetitive stress injuries like chronic back pain or golfers’ or tennis elbow (epicondylitis).

Lance came into to see me with the very limited movement of the shoulder and an appointment to see an orthopedist in a few days.

The treatment goals were to:

  1. reduce the inflammation,
  2. reduce the local edema,
  3. increase the circulation to the shoulder,
  4. reduce the pain,
  5. settle the patient’s fears regarding the surgery and the threat to the joint.

After the first treatment Lance had experienced significant improvement in ROM (range of motion) with a marked decline in pain. The results were as follows.

Lateral Flexion to 35 degrees with moderate assistance of lifting the shoulder.

Anterior Flexion to 80 degrees

Posterior Flexion to 20 degrees

After three visits (once weekly) Lance can lift his arm both laterally and anteriorly over his head with minimal to moderate pain. He is scheduled for reconstructive shoulder surgery in four weeks. But his ability to work has returned. He has even considered foregoing the surgery though the long term outcomes would be, in my opinion and his surgeon’s, unwise as the shoulder would weaken significantly.

Lance will continue to receive treatments from me which should greatly improve the quality of his days. Post-surgery rehabilitation will include more acupuncture, herbs and physical therapy.

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