By Frank Long, MS, Editorial Director
When a group of researchers imagined bee venom as a solution for frozen shoulder, they must have been thinking way, way outside the box. After all, what’s so special about bee venom? Why not vanilla extract or frozen peas?
The idea, regardless of its origins, helps chip away at how physical therapists can deal with frozen shoulder, known in the clinic as adhesive capsulitis (AC) and a common condition among patients who have had an immobilized arm. Therapists who work with post-surgery or post-stroke patients have seen their share of frozen shoulders characterized by stiffness and pain symptoms that discourage movement.
Treatment includes physical therapy, medications, and surgery.
The Bee Team
Resolving pain symptoms associated with frozen shoulder can take time using conventional physical therapy; perhaps as much as 3 years. A hybrid approach of physical therapy and apipuncture—bee venom acupuncture—seems to be able to cut that time in less than half.
Apipuncture historically has been provided through honeybee stings, bee venom injection, and bee venom acupuncture. Modern technologies, however, allow bee venom to be precisely collected, dosed, and injected.
The modern approach was tested and reported in a study published in 2014 led by a Korea-based research team.
Pain Index Speaks…
Using the Shoulder Pain And Disability Index (SPADI), the study subjects who were treated with bee venom injections reported significantly different SPADI scores at 1 year than members of the control group who received normal saline injections. Likewise, study subjects who were treated with bee venom injections reported greater satisfaction with therapy than the control group.
The authors made this conclusion:
BVA combined with physiotherapy remains clinically effective 1 year after treatment and may help improve long-term quality of life in patients with AC of the shoulder.
Treating Parkinson’s Disease and Arthritis
Bee venom acupuncture has also been the subject of academic study as a therapy for Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some positive results from research focused on these two conditions has appeared in the literature.
Participants in the bee venom acupuncture group showed significant improvement on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale … the Berg Balance Scale, and the 30 m walking time.
When compared to the control group, the bee venom acupuncture group experienced significantly greater improvement on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. In the acupuncture group, the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale … and the Beck Depression Inventory showed significant improvement.Park, Koh, Seo, et al., in Long-Term Effectiveness of Bee Venom Acupuncture and Physiotherapy in the Treatment of Adhesive Capsulitis: A One-Year Follow-Up Analysis of a Previous Randomized Controlled Trial
The benefits of bee venom as an RA therapy were also explored by Lee, Soi, Chun, et al, though a systematic review of evidence published in BMJ Open in 2014. This review reported on bee venom acupuncture used to treat RA and determined that this type of acupuncture reduced pain, morning stiffness, tender joint counts and swollen joint counts.
The study authors admit that their conclusions were drawn with a lack of high-quality evidence and that more work should be done to study bee venom acupuncture’s effects on RA.