Acupuncturist Questions Shoulder pain

My son has awful shoulder pain. How can I help him?

My 9 year old son loves to play basketball but lately he's been complaining of shoulder pain (both shoulders) that keeps him indoors more than outdoors. The pediatrician took x-rays and checked him, and nothing is broken or abnormal. Now what do I do? How do I help him feel better and get out of the house again? What kind of doctor can help give him relief?

30 Answers

X-rays wouldn't reveal anything but bone damage. Was an MRI done?

I guess if it were my child, i would take him to a great chiropractor/osteopath (who does manipulations) for an evaluation and second opinion on the structural integrity. If they also find nothing anatomically wrong, acupuncture would be my next or simultaneous visit (you can do both without waiting on chiro/osteopath assessment).
Try acupuncture, it works great for pain.
Have a question aboutShoulder pain?Ask a doctor now
If the bones and joints are all okay, then it's likely muscular pain caused by trigger points (aka knots). Acupuncture can be very helpful because we can use several different techniques such as cupping, dry needling, and moxibustion to release the knots. Other modalities of treatment would be heat, tiger balm or other topical anesthetics, Epsom salt baths, over the counter anti-inflammatories or pain killers, massage, physical therapy, or seeing a pain management doctor.

I do not recommend using ice because, though it does stop inflammation, it does so by stopping blood flow. You want the opposite. You want to increase blood flow because the blood carries nutrients and other supplies your body needs to repair the damage in the area. Secondly, ice will tighten the muscles even further. If you find heat aggravates the pain, use something like icy-hot, mineral ice, or the white colored tiger balm instead. These topical treatments have the same anti-inflammatory effects as ice, but they actually increase blood flow through the area.
It could be soft tissue injury that does not show on x-ray
If your son is open to acupuncture and / or cupping, both or either could help. I have used cupping for 9 year old children and had great success.
9 year old kid are growing quickly and may have some joint pains, but your son's should pains may come from injury from sports, and that will take time to heal. Besides resting, Acupuncture, cupping and Chinese Tuina (medical massage) will be very helpful for speeding up the healing, shorten the recovery time.
So, firstly, because X-rays do not show anything, that’s good, but does not help your son. Obviously he is not feeling well. Children do not usually want to stay put unless there is a problem. If as you say he loves baseball, it makes sense he would want to get back to playing as soon as he can. Children often suffer growth plate injuries. If your child is overusing the upper part (humerus). Actually, throwing a baseball is very common. It can be that he is scared to throw the ball again due to the pain that might come back. Children develop at different stages in their bone growth.

I would take your son to a physiatrist to check out the mobility of his shoulder, as certain movements might be worse than others. Check all this; a treatment plan can then be put in place. Physiatrists are medical doctors who help heal the body without surgery. He will be fine, but listen to him if he says it’s painful. I am old school where we did not rely on tests, X-rays, etc. We did a proper head-to-toe check and listened to the child. Two hands and ears are still the best equipment a doctor can possess.

Hugs for a happy child.
X-rays do not show soft tissue damage. I would suggest an MRI and a blood panel to rule out any bacterial or bursa issues. An orthopedic MD would help with this. Depending on the outcome of this diagnosis, Traditional Oriental Medicine has many tools to help recovery.
You have taken an important first step in determining the source of your son’s shoulder pain. His pediatrician helped to eliminate the likely causes - problems with the shoulder joint, or muscles, ligaments, or tendons around the shoulder. Since this provided no clear answers, it may be time for some extra detective work so your son can return to playing the sport he loves!

Has the pediatrician considered other causes besides the obvious ones? Sometimes the cause of shoulder pain can be referred pain from something else going on in the body. The Mayo Clinic website lists over 20 potential causes of bilateral (both sides) shoulder pain.

If no physical cause can be found, are there any challenges, like bullying for example, that your son has encountered outside the house that would cause him not to want to venture outside?

Maybe a more comprehensive physical/emotional health exam with blood work would be helpful. If the pediatrician defers further exams, then perhaps seek out another GP.
I would suggest physical therapy, stretching and/or yoga. I would guess that he is having growing pains and stretching the area will bring blood and energy into the tissues which will allow for growth and healing. Acupuncture would do the same thing if he is open to it.
If the body is too much moisture, the ligaments are easily stretched. Increased ligaments are loosened because they can not hold the bones, which causes the muscles to stretch together, causing pain.
If you evaporate the moisture through the acupuncture, the ligament contracts and fixes the bone firmly, and the muscles are restored to their original state, and the pain disappears.
He might be good with therapuetic massages and acupuncture
I like to say "when western medicine can't find something wrong it is something we can treat." Western doctors using x-rays cannot see the surrounding tissue injuries very easily and doctors don't seem to palpate areas to get a feel for what is happening to the patients muscular tissues or myofascial tissues.

Go see a Licensed Acupuncturist and see if they can help - they have options beyond needling, such as "gua sha" (a scraping tachnique), cupping (a suction technique), Chinese massage, herbs, salves, patches, etc.

Find a licensed Acupuncturist in your area (and L.Ac. not a DC or MD who "does acupuncture). Find one who works with children and is good with muscle pain. Your son should be better soon, since the MD's already ruled out major problems.

Good luck.
Based on this medicine, there may be a blockage of energy in that area (shoulders) since there was nothing on the x-ray, or there may be inflammation from overuse if he plays a lot of basketball. Based on a consult with more information, I would have a better idea. Acupuncture has been found to help those types of issues when nothing shows on tests. Please do a consultation with an acupuncturist. There are many tools in our box to help.
Make sure he has good warm up before play basketball. It could be due to over use of muscles around the shoulder (so x-ray was normal). You can check if his neck and shoulder muscles are very tight. Good massage and acupuncture can help release the muscle spasm and pain.
I would most certainly take him to an acupuncturist. Shoulder pain is not difficult to treat in most instances. And kids heal and respond very quickly to acupuncture.
Acupuncture is an excellent way to help alleviate pain without the use of drugs or medications.
The problem is not for broken or abnormal bone settings, but in fact even a 5 degree shift of the bone's alignment can cause intense pain. If left untreated, at your son's age, the growth can be stunted in worse case scenarios. We have a special proprietary treatment called the DS Therapy that is popular with the high school, collegiate, and national athletes that we treat at my clinic. The DS Therapy address all bone structures, as well as promoting healthier blood circulation, rehabilitation, and physical growth. Your son should start to see results even just after 1-2 sessions.
X-ray does not show any soft tissue problems but identifies bone or structure changes. I am glad that his doctor checked it out. Acupuncture and some external herbal medicine will help the injury-induced inflammation and pain. I highly recommend taking him in for acupuncture as soon as so he will not suffer from the injury too long to become a chronic issue. Kids recover quicker than adults in this case. Thank you for asking. Dr. Dong.
You can start with home remedies, alternating heat and ice, and homeopathic topical pain relievers which are safe for children, and lightly massaging the area. If that does not work, seeing an Acupuncturist or Massage Therapist would help.
Based on your report, his pediatrician didn't find anything wrong with your son's shoulders. It might mean that the pain is only muscular. Acupuncture and acupressure could probably be good therapies for your son to find his way back to the basketball court.

Alexandre Hillairet, DAOM
I suggest you bring your child to see a local acupuncturist.
Acupuncture or PT.

Mike Berkley
Hi there! Sorry to hear for your son’s sake. I would certainly recommend an MRI to check for a soft tissue tear. If there is one, he may need a surgical repair. If not, Acupuncture can work like magic on pain, especially in young people. An Epsom bath in lukewarm warm (2-3 cups Epsom salt in the bath and soak for 15-20 minutes) can go a long too because of the high mineral content. Arnica cream and CBD cream are also good natural remedies for pain.
Sorry to here about your son being in pain. Usually, when pain is bilateral (both shoulders), it has to do with overuse. He loves to play basketball so much that he is still tossing the ball up even though he is very sore. He must give his shoulders a rest now bc it’s possible that there is some inflammation in his tendons. I recommend some gentle massage once or twice a week and acupuncture once a week, very mild at first and he needs to be stretched passively by someone who really is conservative. The good news is that kids bounce back and the inflammation will go away, he just needs a rest from the offending activity that is causing his pain (overuse playing the game he loves). If pain persists more than 6 weeks without playing basketball, an MRI would give you all peace of mind. I see these kind of issues with kids playing video games, at least he is active and will be again soon- with rest. Applying a gel ice pack to each shoulder after any activities could only settle things also.

David G. Hanley, Dipl. OM

I'm sad about your son's condition, but acupuncture and other adjunctive treatments should help your son. Find an acupuncturist near by.


Scott Sang In Lee
The shoulder pain can be due to a growth spurt. Give it two days. If nothing changes, you can definitely try acupuncture, as long is your son is onboard with that. Acupuncture will provide relief from pain by moving blood and fluids around the shoulders
Acupuncture can help. Icing after playing helps. Staying hydrated with electrolytes helps. Best to be evaluated by an Oriental medicine professional.

Susan Friedrich
Acupuncture - with or without needles, and microcurrent (without needles) would be extremely helpful for your son. Whether it's inflammation from overuse, or simply growing pains, both of these modalities would help treat the pain.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can often provide relief in these types of situation - we use a different diagnostic model and can often figure out what's going on when conventional medicine cannot find a concrete issue. I have done a bit of work with younger athletes (in your son's age range) and often get excellent results.

I'd suggest starting with the "Find a Practitioner" page at Find some acupuncturists local to you and see if they offer a free initial consult. You're looking for someone both you and your son feel comfortable with.

Depending on your son's feelings about acupuncture, you might also try to find someone who can treat with fewer needles.