Massage or acupuncture for stiff shoulders – an interesting clinical case
An interesting case occurred this week in clinic that warrants writing about as it demonstrates how useful acupuncture is for treating tight muscles.
A patient came in seeking treatment for terribly tight shoulders with strong pain. She hadn’t sustained any particular injury, and she had been using deep tissue massage (not at WSW) as the primary treatment for the past year. The problem was that despite the massage her shoulders had stayed tight and painful and at times become worse.
The question is – How can that be?? Doesn’t massage loosen the muscles and relieve pain? How can it make shoulders tighter?
The answer is in certain circumstances muscular tightness comes from a tendency of the body’s energy, blood and fluids to “gather” in one part of the body. This “gathering” can lead to an internal forcefulness pushing outwards causing the tightness. Deep hard massage over an area that has internal fullness (the cause of which could be identified through a full diagnostic session) can actually make the muscular tightness worse, as was the case with this patient.
The way to make it better, i.e. to soften the muscles, is to create vents for releasing pressure and to choose treatment methods that encourage more effective circulation of qi and blood throughout the entire body, to stop it gathering in the first place. The network of acupuncture channels and collaterals provides the perfect framework for giving just such a treatment.
For the patient who came in during the week – by using this venting treatment her muscles felt significantly better after one session but follow-up treatments were recommended because the tendency for her body to “gather” where it does is not something that can be instantly cured. She was also put on a regime of herbal anti-inflammatories and magnesium powder to assist the process given that she was unable to come again for a few weeks.
So the moral of the story is if you have tightness and pain that isn’t getting better with massage – try acupuncture!
By Siegrid Delaney
Acupuncturist/Director At West Street Wellbeing