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Case Study: Neck & Shoulder Pain



Karen R. of Indiana was in crisis and experiencing shoulder pain so severe, she didn’t know she was having a heart attack.


Already undergoing pain management for a month—Karen’s neck and back pain were excruciating—pain that was barely alleviated under heavy medication. Soon other problems began to surface—shoulder pain that was unrelenting—it was so bad, she missed key indications of heart trouble.


Of course, the shoulder issue persisted after the heart attack and Karen was on a regular supply of morphine to combat the pain. She was having a difficulty caring for herself during recovery. Karen decided to stay with her daughter and son-in-law San Jose for support.

Detoxing from the morphine she was prescribed back home, Karen was also undergoing physical therapy at a San Jose pain clinic—it became apparent that her shoulder pain was becoming more and more aggravated.


“I would cringe because it would hurt so bad and I didn’t know what to do because physical therapy wasn’t helping,” Karen says.


The pain was not only impairing her quality of life, but it was impeding her participation in her cardiac rehab program. Because of the pain, doctors recommended a nerve block. Karen didn’t like the idea of this invasive surgery and looked for alternatives.


Although skeptical of acupuncture, Karen figured it was worth a try.


“I don’t believe in it,” Karen thought. “I don’t think it’s going to help. But I’m going to try everything I can think of to try before surgery. So I decided to try acupuncture.”


On the recommendation of a nurse at the pain clinic, Karen decided to seek care with acupuncturist Andrea Vance—her fifth attempt at a new practitioner. Karen saw Andrea three times that first week.


On a scale of 0-10, Karen noted a dramatic difference in her pain level.


“When I had the first treatment, I went from a pain level of about 5 or 6, down to a 4—overnight” Karen says. “It was amazing—I was so pleased.”


At a level 4, Karen says she still really hurt, but it wasn’t the excruciating pain that she had before. “With the second and third treatment, it just kept getting better and better and better,” Karen says.


After the first week, Karen saw Andrea twice weekly for the next four weeks. 

“Finally, I was at the point where I’d have a little twinge now and then, but it was nothing,” Karen says. “It was probably a 1 sometimes a 1.5 other times. It was basically nothing, it was all due to the acupuncture.”


Through a combination of cardiac care and acupuncture, Karen’s overall health and quality of life improved dramatically.

Karen says she experienced not only an increased range of motion—even lifting moving boxes without issue—but Karen also noticed significant improvements in her activity and energy levels. A walk that at one time would not have gotten her past the corner, soon turned into 2 miles. She was so impressed by her acupuncture experience, she’s a self-admitted cheerleader of the treatment.


“I talk to everybody I know—try acupuncture,” she tells them. —”It works.”

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