Needle Notes  

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where there is stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint leading to a limited range of motion in the joint. Frozen shoulder usually only affects one shoulder, but some people may eventually develop it in the other shoulder as well. This condition usually develops slowly, over a period of months. The shoulder starts out in the painful stage, where pain occurs with movement and the range of motion begins to become limited. Gradually there is a decrease in pain along with a drastic decrease in the range of motion of the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder can occur after an injury to the shoulder, a surgery or an arm fracture, or it may occur in people with other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, thyroid problems, and Parkinson’s disease. Frozen shoulder is also more common over the age of 40. With frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule (the connective tissue in our shoulder joint) becomes inflamed and stiff, which in turn can cause adhesions to develop between the joint’s surfaces and a decrease in the natural lubricating fluids in the joint, all of which contribute to the pain and reduced mobility. At night the shoulder might hurt when sleeping on the painful side and there can be a numbness or tingling in the arm and hand. With the limited use and mobility, strength is lost in the surrounding muscles.

The treatment in Western medicine consists of pain management by using painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. To regain mobility, physiotherapy or acupuncture may be recommended. A frozen shoulder that isn’t treated well can become a lengthy condition.

Luckily, acupuncture can be very helpful for resolving frozen shoulder. There are several meridians (energy pathways) running over the shoulder or close to the shoulder. When the qi-energy and blood flow in these meridians is obstructed, problems begin to arise. This obstruction can be the result of an underlying problem in one or more of the related organs. A problem in the large intestine can result, for example, in constipation, but also in a frozen shoulder. Even a problem in the stomach can eventually cause shoulder complaints, because its meridian runs close to the shoulder.

An acupuncturist investigates where exactly there is improper functioning within the patient and then will treat the underlying organ problems to get the blood and energy flowing again in the meridians. The significant difference between Western medicine and Chinese medicine is that Western medicine will treat the shoulder mainly locally, while in Chinese medicine we will treat the whole body, addressing internal factors that contribute the health and healing of the shoulder area. By doing so, we have the opportunity to improve overall health and strengthen the shoulder to prevent future problems from re-ocucuring. By helping the body to return to its own natural equilibrium, acupuncture can help to produce long lasting results for frozen shoulder conditions.


Night sweats

Night sweats are episodes of excessive night time sweating in spite of the temperature around you. It is a fairly common problem, with many people experiencing them from time to time. Night sweating usually isn’t considered a serious medical concern, however it can be uncomfortable when it occurs regularly or interferes with sleep.

Night sweats can be a side effect of certain medications such as antidepressants, hypoglycemic agents, temperature-regulating medications, or hormone therapy. Many women also experience night sweating during menopause. In some cases, underlying medical conditions can lead to night sweats, such as infections, cancer, nervous system disorders, or problems with the body’s endocrine (hormone-producing) system. It’s always important to get symptoms checked out by your doctor to be sure that they aren’t a sign of something more serious. For people experiencing night sweats, acupuncture can offer relief.

Typically with complaints like night sweats, there will be other accompanying symptoms relating to our body temperature, our appetite and digestion, our energy, and our sleep. These symptoms help an acupuncturist to determine which pattern of imbalance is the true cause of the complaint. From a Western medical perspective they may all be lumped together as the same condition (such as “headaches” or “insomnia”), whereas in Chinese medicine the condition will be broken down into a number of different types based on the underlying imbalance. Knowing the specific imbalance helps us to treat the problem very effectively and resolve the symptoms.

With night sweating, there are a few different patterns of imbalance that can be at work. The most common pattern involved in night sweating is a yin deficiency, often combined with too much internal heat. With this type of pattern, the night sweats would be frequent with a tendency to feel warmer in the later afternoon, reddening of the cheeks, heat in the chest, and hot hands and feet. Night sweating can also be due to a heart blood deficiency, with night sweating that is accompanied by symptoms of heart palpitations, insomnia, pale complexion, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A third type of night sweating is due to spleen qi-energy deficiency with internal damp accumulation, leading to night sweats with headaches with a “head full of cotton” feeling, heavy limbs, poor appetite, and slippery or slimy feeling in the mouth.

As you can see, with night sweats there are a number of different situations that can occur. By determining which type of pattern is at the root of the problem, acupuncture can help the body to correct the imbalance and resolve the symptoms. Treatments can help to re-balance the body, which will in turn begin to resolve the night sweats. In addition, acupuncture can help improve and resolve accompanying symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, appetite, headaches, or poor sleep. It is simply a matter of redirecting the body’s energy and to encourage the body’s own natural healing processes.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, often starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. The symptoms can vary from person to person and gradually develop, often unnoticed at first. Symptoms may begin on one side of the body and eventually affect both sides, although one side may remain worse than the other. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, slowed or delayed movements, muscle rigidity, impaired posture and balance, speech problems, loss of automatic movements, and in later stages, dementia (impairment of memory and mental clarity). Parkinson's symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses.

The reason for Parkinson’s disease is still a mystery, but genetics and environmental factors such as exposure to viruses and toxins seem to both contribute. However, people suffering from Parkinson’s disease show changes to neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in reduced stimulation of the motor cortex, the area of our brain responsible for our movement. Parkinson’s disease typically develops in middle or later life, and is more common in men.

Treatment for Parkinson’s includes medications to manage the symptoms of the disease, physiotherapy to help with movement, massage therapy to relax rigid muscles, and in some cases, surgery. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise may also be recommended. Yoga or tai chi can be particularly beneficial because they can help with flexibility and balance.

Chinese medicine classifies Parkinson’s disease as a type of convulsion or tremor. It is seen as a combination of constitutional (inherited) weakness combined with lifestyle factors such as overwork, diet, and emotional stress, which may be triggers to the development of the disease. Parkinson’s disease is broken down into 3 sub-categories according to the cause of the disease.

The first is a deficiency of qi-energy and blood, with specific symptoms of pronounced tremor of a limb, sallow complexion, staring look, occipital stiffness, limb cramping, uncoordinated walking, difficulty moving, dizziness, blurred vision, and sweating. In this case, an acupuncturist would work on building up the body’s qi-energy and nourish the blood in order to improve symptoms and healthy functioning of the body.

The second type is phlegm-heat, which produces symptoms of tremors, dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, staring look, feeling of oppression in the chest, yellow phlegm, obesity, and stiff neck and back. This type can be particularly brought on by diet, and treatment focuses on resolving the phlegm and clearing heat from the body to remove blockages.

The third type is liver and kidney-yin deficiency, resulting in dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia, headache, night sweats, restless mind, sore back and knees, numbness of limbs, head tremors, clenched teeth, poor memory, difficulty walking, and staring look. In this case, treatment must build up the body’s yin energy and the body’s energy circulation.

While Parkinson’s disease cannot be completely cured, regular acupuncture treatments can offer success in the control of symptoms and in slowing or halting the progression of the disease, depending on the type. The sooner treatment is begun after onset, the more success treatment may have. Acupuncture can complement Western medical treatment for Parkinson’s disease and help to improve the quality of life of those suffering from the disease.

Acupuncture can also help with the associated symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s often also suffer from depression, sleep problems, urinary problems, and constipation, and acupuncture has shown positive results in all of these areas. While Parkinson’s is a complex disease, acupuncture can help to improve quality of life and overall health to better manage the condition.



A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is reduced or interrupted, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within a few minutes, brain cells begin to die. Ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs when the arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked, severely reducing blood flow (ischemia). The other type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures, causing too much blood within the skull. Hemorrhages can result from a number of conditions that affect the blood vessels, including uncontrolled high blood pressure, weak spots in the blood vessel walls, and the rupture of a malformed blood vessel.

Symptoms of stroke include trouble with walking, loss of balance or coordination, dizziness, trouble speaking, blurred or double vision, severe headache, stiff neck, facial pain, and paralysis or numbness on one side of the body. A stroke can lead to temporary or permanent disability, such as paralysis or loss of control of certain muscles, difficulty talking or swallowing, memory loss or trouble with understanding, and pain, tingling or numbness in certain parts of the body. Early treatment can minimize damage to the brain and potential stroke complications.

Recovery and rehabilitation depend on the area of the brain and the amount of tissue damaged. Harm to the right side of the brain may affect movement and sensation on the left side of the body. Damage to brain tissue on the left side may affect movement on the right side, as well as speech and language functions. In addition, people who've had a stroke may have problems with breathing, swallowing, balancing and hearing, and loss of vision and bladder or bowel function.

Every person's stroke recovery is different, depending on what complications a person might have. The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help the person recover as much independence and functioning as possible. Much of stroke rehabilitation involves relearning lost skills, such as walking or communicating. The speed of recovery depends on the extent of damage to the brain, the intensity and duration of therapy received, as well as personality, coping styles, and motivation.

In Chinese medicine, stroke is caused by a number of factors that tend to play out over a long period of time, and depending on the factors involved, this will determine the type of symptoms experienced during and after a stroke. Chinese medicine distinguishes two general types of stroke: the most severe type attacks the internal organs as well as the energy pathways (meridians) and the milder type attacks only the meridians. Lifestyle factors that put a person at greater risk include long term stress or overwork, excessive or strenuous physical activity, emotional strain, and irregular or poor eating habits.

Acupuncture can be a very helpful therapy during the stroke rehabilitation process. As with other types of therapies, acupuncture tends to have the most positive effect on stroke recovery if treatment is started as early on as possible, ideally within the first 3 to 6 months of the stroke.

Acupuncture treatments can offer the stroke patient improvements in the areas of walking, balance, emotions, quality of life, ease of daily activity, and mobility. Studies show that acupuncture can have an effect on nerve regeneration, blood viscosity and blood pressure, hormone regulation, and aid surviving nerve cells in finding new pathways. Acupuncture is also helpful in the treatment of headache, dizziness and hypertension. Because a stroke is a more complex problem, treating this condition with acupuncture will take a series of treatments in order to improve symptoms and achieve the best results.

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About the Author

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. His training in acupuncture took place in Nelson, B.C. where he graduated from the four-year practitioner program in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He later practiced in Ottawa, Ontario treating a variety of health conditions and working together with practitioners of other disciplines. James is very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Kelowna and area residents offering quality acupuncture at affordable prices. He practices at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre in downtown Kelowna.

He can be reached at 861-8863 or at www.okanaganacupuncture.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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