How to Treat the Frozen Shoulder

△ Symptoms of frozen shoulder and rotator cuff tear are similar, but the treatment plan should be different. Imageⓒshutterstock_wavebreakmedia

Gou Ji, Du Zhong, and Niu Xi Are Proven For Its Efficacy

By Winston Lee L. Ac, Ph.D., KMD

Shoulder pain that is shooting and seems to be torn, it is difficult to raise the arm more than 90 degrees because of the extreme pain, and it is very uncomfortable when putting on or taking off clothes. When a patient stretches, they may experience extreme pain, and while trying to grab an object in the back seat from the driver’s seat, they may experience severe and unpleasant pain again. In such a situation, they cannot even make a good golf swing, but their daily life becomes horrible, and they suddenly feel like they are getting old, which can lead to depression. Those are typical symptoms of a frozen shoulder. It is caused by the joint capsule adhesion surrounding the shoulder joint. It is the same shoulder pain, but it is a rotator cuff tear caused by a fine tear in the ‘tendon,’ the muscle plexus of the shoulder. In the case of a rotator cuff tear, the pain is similar to that of a frozen shoulder, but no movement limitation prevents the arm from rising properly. In this case, the treatment method is quite different from the frozen shoulder, so patients must get a proper diagnosis and treatment from a specialist.

As one of the degenerative diseases, it has such a name because it usually occurs in the 50s, but it could occur in the 40s, and there are more cases where it passes without these symptoms. Because it is a degenerative disease, it can occur even if you live without playing sports such as golf or baseball. It’s like our hair turning white or our skin wrinkled. In addition, since this symptom persists for at least several months and up to two years, it disappears on its own, so it is a fairly unique disease that most often passes with patience.

It is not too much to say that more than half of the treatment for this actually depends on proper continuous stretching. Since the patient can’t technically massage the joint capsule with their hands, it’s just proper stretching to release it. In fact, there are many stretches related to frozen shoulders on YouTube, so they can search for them and do it themselves. But they have to do it consistently and accurately every day. If patients warm the shoulder with a heated pad right before stretching and then stretching, the shoulder muscles and joint capsule will be tender quickly, so the effect of stretching can be maximized. As I said at the beginning, the method of stretching and treatment for a frozen shoulder is completely different from a rotator cuff tear. Conversely, it may make the situation worse.


Although this kind of stretching is important, the rate of improvement of symptoms may be considerably slower than expected. In this case, if the patient chooses acupuncture for treatment, they can see great improvement in a short time. Acupuncture stimulates the joint capsule deep in the shoulder to speed up recovery and, at the same time, effectively relieves muscle spasms such as the great teres major, teres minor, deltoid, and subscapularis muscles that are tensed severely due to the limited range of motion. In addition, since the frozen shoulder is a degenerative disease, if patients take herbal medicine that matches their constitution and symptoms, they can quickly reduce the pain and effectively slow down the degeneration. In particular, among the herbs used in herbal medicines used for these symptoms, Gou Ji, Du Zhong, and Niu Xi are particularly effective in these diseases. Therefore, if a patient takes these herbal medicines for about a month, receives acupuncture treatment 1-2 times a week, and stretches for 10 minutes or more every day, what they will suffer for a year can be expected to be healed in 1-2 months.