Acupuncture is often thought of as a Chinese therapy, as that is where it has its origins, but it spread throughout Korea, Vietnam and Japan more than a thousand years ago. Japanese acupuncture uses slightly different techniques, but it applies similar principles to offer a variety of benefits, including as a form of pain relief. Managing shoulder pain is just one way that this form of acupuncture can be used.

What is the difference between Chinese and Japanese acupuncture?

The basic principle behind traditional acupuncture is that when the body’s energy, or qi (ki), is blocked, it can cause illness and pain. By inserting needles into certain pressure points on the body’s meridians, or the channels where that energy is meant to flow, the pain and stress can be relieved.

When acupuncture travelled to Japan, the theory and pressure points were kept, but the traditional techniques were modified. This form of acupuncture is considered gentler, as it uses thinner needles and only minimal insertions. The surface of the skin may be lightly manipulated beforehand. In general, this leads to a more relaxing and less painful acupuncture experience. Japanese therapies also often use moxibustion alongside the acupuncture itself.

Acupuncture for shoulder pain

As with many joints, an injury to the shoulder can be a serious hindrance when trying to go about your daily life. Not only is shoulder damage painful, but it can limit your mobility. It may become difficult to extend your arm fully or lift it above your head, which in turn can make simple tasks much more difficult. These kinds of injury can often take a long time to heal, especially when you need to keep using the joint, which means you may have to manage chronic pain and stiffness on a regular basis.

Many bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons meet in the shoulder. It is an essential part of the body, but constant use means it is also easier to harm. This could involve broken bones, sprains, dislocations or inflammation from arthritis or bursitis amongst others. Your acupuncture session for shoulder pain will likely involve inserting around five needles for between 10 and 20 minutes.

There are more than 400 acupoints on the body in total, most located along one of the meridians. These points have traditional Chinese and Japanese names, but in the West are often referred to by an abbreviated shorthand for simplicity. Acupoints for shoulder pain are not just found in the shoulder, but may be anywhere on the body that is connected by a meridian. Your acupuncturist might insert needles in your leg for example to help with your shoulder.

When used correctly, Japanese acupuncture is a safe and often relaxing way to stimulate your blood vessels and endorphins, as well as the meridians and qi of traditional medicine. If you are experiencing chronic shoulder pain, then it may help you to manage it so you can have an improved quality of life.