Nowadays, many people use their hands much more than their legs on a daily basis. Frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, de Quervain’s disease, and trigger finger are common arm disorders that cause pain and distress in life. Dr. Gwo-Bin Wu, the director of Xinyitang Chinese Medicine Clinic, will teach us several simple “tendon loosening” methods that can be used to improve the aforementioned conditions, symptoms, and pain.
Simple Movements to Relieve Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder is formally known as “adhesive capsulitis,” and its patients are mostly people over the age of 50.
Our shoulder joints may become inflamed due to injuries and/or poor motions. When the joint capsule becomes inflamed, the body can heal itself and produce a lot of adhesive material similar to a scab on a wound. As a result, the shoulder joint becomes very painful and the shoulder’s movement range becomes limited.
Some people experience pain when they move their shoulders, and some even to the point where they wake up in the middle of the night with pain and regularly have their sleep disrupted.
In traditional Chinese medicine, doctors can use the small needle-knife therapy, acupuncture, bloodletting, and cupping technique to treat frozen shoulders. Dr. Wu typically uses acupuncture, because the needles are relatively small; and even if he uses strong stimulation techniques, it usually doesn’t result in any sequela. After local needling, the adhesions in the shoulder joints can be loosened by stimulation with lifting-thrusting and twisting techniques, to increase the shoulders’ movement range.
Then how can we improve frozen shoulders at home? The most important principle is that since the shoulder joints are frozen, you should “pull them apart” from all angles.
We can do the following four exercises:
Place your hand on the wall and slowly climb upward with two fingers (index finger and middle finger) to pull the shoulder joint upward.
After the fingers climb to a certain height, the shoulder joint will feel very tight and painful, so press your body towards the wall to stretch the shoulder joint. Maintain the posture for 30 seconds.
After the shoulder joint feels more relaxed, slowly climb up again with your fingers.
Repeat these steps.
Chest Expansion Exercise
Press your forearm against the wall and pull back your other shoulder to do this chest expansion exercise and hold for 30 seconds. This exercise can help stretch the tendons at the front of the shoulders.
Patients with frozen shoulders usually can’t lift their arms up if they have them behind their back. In this case, they can use a towel to help pull one arm up.
Put both hands behind your back and pull one end of a towel with each hand.
The upper hand pulls the towel upward, helping to raise lower hand to raise as high as it can go.
Hold the posture for 30 seconds.
Move the shoulder joints in all directions.
With your palm facing you, gradually stretch your hand upward as high as it can.
Turn your palm outward and draw a semicircle to go back to its original position.
Repeat the above movement.
Frozen shoulder is usually long-lasting, and the effects of treatment are observed in units of three months. In severe cases, the pain may last for several years and requires a lot of patience to treat.
The most common condition of the elbow joint is “lateral epicondylitis,” commonly known as “tennis elbow.”
All the extensor muscles in the forearm are attached to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus through tendons. If you play tennis or badminton or hold something in the wrong posture, the muscles will contract too tightly and cause inflammation and pain in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus.
Some people choose to go for pain relief injections. However, according to Dr. Wu’s experience, it takes longer for people who have had such injections to heal.
Tennis Elbow Tendon Relaxation Method
Move two finger-breadths down from the pain spot and pluck the tendon like a guitar string (but do not pluck the pain spot directly).
Once the tendon is loosened, the pain will be relieved.
In addition, Dr. Wu often uses the Hegu point (LI-4) for acupuncture treatment, because it is part of the large intestine meridian, which runs right through the pain point of tennis elbow. He also needles the Quchi point (LI-11) to unblock the meridians, and uses local acupuncture to relieve the inflammation and swelling, and the patient is immediately pain-free.
Tendon Loosening Method for Quick Pain Relief for De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
Dr. Wu once treated a patient who was a new mother. Since she was so afraid of dropping her baby, she would hold her baby with her wrists hooked inward. After exerting the wrong type of force for a prolonged period of time, she developed de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is inflammation of the tendon sheaths at the styloid process of the radius and a painful condition.
Here’s what we can do to treat this condition:
The injured hand holds its thumb with the four other fingers. Bend the wrist in the direction of the little finger. The injured spot will feel very sore.
Use the tip of the thumb of the other hand to gently push the tendons along the sore spot (as if to cut them open).
These two movements can loosen the tendons here and relieve the pain.
Mothers aren’t the only ones who experience this type of wrist pain. A frequently used self-treatment method of wrist pain is applying medicated plasters. In Dr. Wu’s clinical experience, however, wrist pain is treated not directly at the wrist joint, but at the elbow.
Wrist inflexibility involves the interplay between the radius and ulna. The parts of radius and ulna in the elbow joint are covered by ligaments. If improper force is applied, the muscles and ligaments in the elbow will contract and become tight, causing the joint to become stuck. And this in turn results in limited rotation of the radius and ulna, further causing wrist immobility and pain.
4 Acupuncture Points for Self-treatment of Wrist Pain
If you experience wrist pain, there are four acupuncture points that you can massage and press, each with 10 to 20 strokes, to help relax the wrist.
Tianjing point (TH-10): located at the back of the elbow, in the depression above the olecranon process (i.e. elbow tip). Tianjing point is the point where the tendons and bones of the elbow gather. When Dr. Wu treats wrist pain clinically, he needles the Tianjing point first to give the patient a feeling of soreness and swelling, so that the wrist will begin to relax.
Quze point (P-3): located on the transverse cubital crease, in the depression at the ulnar side of the tendon of the biceps brachii muscle.
Shaohai point (HT-3): located on the inner side of the elbow. When the elbow flexes, it is in the center between the medial end of the transverse cubital crease and the medial epicondyle of the humerus.
Waiguan point (TE-5): located in the middle of the back of the hand, three finger-breadths from the rasceta.
In addition, you can also use a scraping board, or some other flat and hard board, to pluck at the crevices between the index, middle, ring, and little phalanges on the back of the hand (three places in total). If your wrist hurts, it will also be painful if you pluck at these places. After this area is loosened, the joints will become relaxed, and the fingers will become flexible.
These methods can also be used to treat de Quervain’s tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
A Method to Improve Trigger Finger in 1 to 2 Weeks
Trigger finger (aka. stenosing tenosynovitis) is usually caused by overuse of the finger, which causes the tendons and ligaments at the base of the finger to rub repeatedly, thus eventually leading to inflammation. The patient’s fingers become stiff when stretching and cannot move continuously–the fingers then get stuck halfway and can only be popped open with more force. It is also very painful to touch the base of the finger.
Use the tip of your left thumb to gently stroke the tendons near the painful spots at the base of your right thumb (or the reverse).
Find approximately 10 of these pain points, and stroke up and down once at each point.
Stroking the painful spots 3 to 4 times a day will help loosen the tendons at the affected area.
This method is very simple, but you must be consistent, and its effects show after one to two weeks.
Epoch Health articles are for informational purposes and are not a substitute for individualized medical advice. Please consult a trusted professional for personal medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. Have a question? Email us at AskADoctor@epochtimes.nyc