Acupressure for Shoulder Pain: Unlocking Natural Relief

Acupressure for Shoulder Pain: Unlocking Natural Relief

Shoulder pain can be a debilitating concern that hinders our daily activities and decreases our quality of life. Traditional pain relief methods, while effective for some, might not always provide the comprehensive relief many seek. However, there is an ancient technique that could offer natural alleviation. And that is acupressure. Rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it has been used for centuries to promote healing and relief from various ailments. In this blog post, we will delve deep into how acupressure for shoulder pain can be a potent tool, providing you with some techniques to navigate your journey to pain-free days.

When Acupressure For Shoulder Pain Can Be Helpful?

When Acupressure For Shoulder Pain Can Be Helpful?Shoulder pain can arise from a plethora of causes, from the simple overexertion of muscles to the more complex nerve compressions or degenerative conditions. Acupressure, grounded in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), offers a non-invasive alternative that many individuals have found beneficial.

Let’s explore the scenarios where acupressure may be especially helpful:

  • Muscle Strain and Overexertion

Overdoing a workout, lifting heavy objects improperly, or even prolonged poor posture can lead to muscle strain in the shoulder region. Acupressure can help relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.

  • Rotator Cuff Injuries

While severe rotator cuff injuries may require medical intervention, milder forms of discomfort can potentially be alleviated with acupressure, helping reduce pain and improve mobility.

  • Tension Headaches

Shoulder tension can often trigger tension headaches. By alleviating the tension in the shoulder, acupressure might also reduce the frequency and severity of these headaches.

  • Stress-induced Tension

Stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil can manifest physically as shoulder tension. Acupressure can be a therapeutic approach to address both the emotional and physical ramifications of stress.

  • Referred Pain from Neck or Spinal Issues

Sometimes, the source of shoulder pain isn’t the shoulder itself but issues in the neck or spine. Acupressure can assist in alleviating some of this referred pain.

  • Bursitis or Tendonitis

Inflammation of the bursa or tendons can cause sharp pain in the shoulder. Acupressure might provide some relief by promoting circulation and reducing muscle tension around the inflamed areas.

  • General Maintenance and Prevention

Even if you’re not currently experiencing shoulder pain, acupressure can be a proactive way to maintain shoulder health and prevent potential discomfort.

It’s crucial to note that while acupressure can be beneficial, it isn’t a replacement for professional medical advice. If you’re experiencing severe pain, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider.

What Pressure Point Relieves Shoulder Pain?

What Pressure Point Relieves Shoulder Pain?In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupressure, several pressure points are believed to help alleviate shoulder pain. Each point corresponds to specific meridians or pathways through which “Qi” or life force flows. By pressing on these points, you may stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

Here’s one of the primary pressure points often used to relieve shoulder pain:

LI 4 (Hegu) – Large Intestine 4

  • Location: This point is located on the back of the hand, in the fleshy area between the thumb and index finger. To find it, squeeze your thumb against your index finger. The point is on the highest point of the muscle bulge that appears, closer to the end of the crease that forms.
  • Application: Press firmly using your opposite thumb, while supporting the back of your hand with your fingers. Hold for a minute while breathing deeply, then switch sides.
  • Benefits: This is a powerful point not just for shoulder pain but for relieving pain in general. It’s also believed to induce labor. So pregnant women should avoid pressing this point.

SI 11 (Tianzong) – Small Intestine 11

  • Location: Located in the scapular region, in the depression in the center of the scapula.
  • Application: Use the thumb of your opposite hand to apply gentle but firm pressure, making small circles for 1-2 minutes.
  • Benefits: This point can help relieve pain and tension in the shoulder blade area.

GB 21 (Jianjing) – Gall Bladder 21

  • Location: This point is on the top of the shoulder, midway between the base of the neck and the tip of the shoulder.
  • Application: Press down gently using the fingers of your opposite hand or your thumb, while supporting your arm with your other hand. This point can be very tender, so apply pressure gradually.
  • Benefits: This point can help with shoulder tension, pain, and neck stiffness. Like LI 4, this point is contraindicated for pregnant women as it might induce labor.

SI 9 (Jianzhen) – Small Intestine 9

  • Location: Found in the depression just below the bony cap of the shoulder (the acromion process), about an inch below the top of the deltoid muscle.
  • Application: Apply pressure using your opposite hand’s fingers, pressing and massaging in small circles.
  • Benefits: Helps with pain and restricted movement in the shoulder.

SI 10 (Naoshu) – Small Intestine 10

  • Location: Directly below SI 9, in the depression posterior to the shoulder joint.
  • Application: As with SI 9, use your fingers to press and massage the area.
  • Benefits: This point can relieve shoulder and neck pain and stiffness.

Techniques and Tips For Applying Acupressure For Shoulder Pain

Acupressure is a technique that involves the application of manual pressure (usually with the fingers) to specific points on the body. When targeting shoulder pain, the approach is precise and demands a bit of knowledge. Here are techniques and tips for applying acupressure effectively for shoulder pain relief:

Basic Techniques

  • Static Pressure: Apply steady, firm pressure to the acupressure point using the tip of your finger, thumb, or even a specialized acupressure tool. Hold the pressure for about 1-3 minutes, depending on your comfort level.
  • Circular Motions: Using the pad of your thumb or fingers, press and rotate in small circles around the acupressure point. This method can stimulate broader areas.
  • Tapping: With your fingertip, gently tap on the acupressure point. This can stimulate the area and is often used for sensitive points.
  • Rolling: Ideal for broader regions like the shoulders, use your fingers or palms to roll back and forth over the tensioned area.
  • Pulsing: Apply pressure in a pulsating manner, pressing down and releasing repeatedly.

Tips for Effective Application

Tips for Effective Application

  • Start with a Warm-Up: Begin with gentle stretches to relax the shoulder muscles. This helps prepare the area for acupressure.
  • Stay Relaxed: Ensure you’re in a comfortable position. If you’re tense, it can counteract the benefits of acupressure.
  • Breathe Deeply: Deep breathing can amplify the therapeutic effects. As you apply pressure, inhale deeply, and exhale slowly.
  • Listen to Your Body: If a point feels extremely sensitive, ease off a bit. It should feel like a “good” kind of pain – similar to the sensation you’d feel during a deep tissue massage.
  • Stay Hydrated: After your acupressure session, drink water. This helps to flush out any toxins that might be released during the treatment.
  • Consistency is Key: Like many natural therapies, the benefits of acupressure accumulate over time. Consistent application can lead to better results.
  • Seek Guidance: If you’re new to acupressure, consider seeking guidance from a trained therapist or using resources like books and videos to learn proper techniques.

Remember, while acupressure can offer relief from shoulder pain, it’s essential to determine the underlying cause of your pain. If the pain persists or is severe, always consult a medical professional.

What Are The Pros And Cons of It?

Like any therapeutic approach, it has its pros and cons. Here’s a balanced look at both sides of acupressure for shoulder pain:


  • Non-Invasive: Unlike some treatments or surgeries, acupressure doesn’t require breaking the skin or any kind of invasive procedure.
  • Drug-Free: It offers a natural approach to pain management, without the need for medications that might have side effects or potential addiction concerns.
  • Self-administered: Once you learn the techniques and points, acupressure can be performed at home, making it a convenient option.
  • Cost-Effective: After initial training or consultation, acupressure is practically free, especially if you’re self-administering.
  • Holistic Approach: Acupressure doesn’t just address the symptom (pain) but aims to restore balance in the body’s energy pathways. And, possibly offering broader health benefits.
  • Flexibility: Can be combined with other treatments and therapeutic modalities for enhanced benefits.
  • Mental Relaxation: Beyond just physical relief, acupressure can promote relaxation and reduce stress. This is often linked with muscle tension and pain.


  • Not a Cure-All: While acupressure may offer relief, it doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of the shoulder pain, especially if the pain stems from a structural issue.
  • Requires Patience: Unlike some pain relief methods that offer instant relief, acupressure might require consistent application over time to see results.
  • Potential for Overstimulation: If done incorrectly, it’s possible to overstimulate a point, leading to increased pain or discomfort.
  • Training Required: Effective acupressure demands knowledge of specific points and techniques. Incorrect application might not yield the desired results.
  • Not Suitable for All: Individuals with certain medical conditions, wounds in the area, or pregnant women (some points can induce labor) need to exercise caution or avoid acupressure.
  • Temporary Relief: For some individuals, acupressure might offer only short-term relief, necessitating frequent sessions.
  • Skepticism and Lack of Research: Though there is some research supporting acupressure’s benefits, it’s limited compared to more conventional treatments. Some remain skeptical about its efficacy.

While acupressure offers potential benefits for shoulder pain relief, its effectiveness varies from individual to individual.

What Is The Success Rate Of Acupressure For Shoulder Pain?

What Is The Success Rate Of Acupressure For Shoulder Pain?The success rate of acupressure for shoulder pain can vary based on multiple factors, including:

  • the individual’s specific condition
  • cause of the pain
  • expertise of the practitioner
  • consistency of self-application

The comprehensive data on success rates specific to shoulder pain treated with acupressure remains limited. However, there have been numerous studies conducted on acupressure’s effectiveness in managing pain in general.

One systematic review evaluated 38 studies related to acupressure and pain. The analysis found that acupressure was more effective than no intervention in cases of pain, including musculoskeletal pain. It was concluded that acupressure might serve as an effective adjunct therapy for people suffering from pain.


Acupressure, deeply rooted in the ancient principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, offers a promising, non-invasive, and drug-free avenue for those grappling with shoulder pain. While its success can vary among individuals and more high-quality research is needed, the potential benefits of pain relief, stress reduction, and holistic healing make it a compelling complement to other therapeutic approaches.

As always, individuals should seek guidance from trained professionals and consider acupressure as a component of a comprehensive pain management strategy. This will ensure a balanced and informed path to well-being. If you’re experiencing Shoulder pain, physical therapy for shoulder pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.