Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder (or Adhesive Capsulitis, if you want to be fancy) is an inflammatory condition in the shoulder joint (the glenohumeral joint; we spoke about it in the last blog here), characterized by a loss of range of movement (ROM) and high levels of pain. Adhesive Capsulitis symptoms may be prompted by trigger points in muscles around the shoulder joint, as well as the glenohumeral joint itself.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of frozen shoulder and to date, it remains one of the more complex conditions to treat. This is, in part, due to the complicated nature of the shoulder “joint” itself; as it really comprises four joints, whose timing and contribution to overall motion are critical to normal shoulder mechanics.

There are several possible factors that have been linked to frozen shoulder and its symptoms, such as trauma, age, gender, disease, cultural background, as well as ergonomic stressors and other factors. However, it is difficult to properly identify the underlying cause(s). Due to the complexity of the shoulder, there are multiple muscles and ligaments that may compensate for other issues, such as poor biomechanics, muscular imbalances or weaknesses. In this way, identifying the primary cause as separate and distinct from secondary issues (which may also cause frozen shoulder symptoms) makes diagnosis and treatment decisions challenging for health specialists.

Known contributing factors include bad posture, minor strain, lack of stretching, static posture (office workers, I’m looking at you), or shoulder surgery, but in many cases there is no identifiable trigger that that causes this condition.

As diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause is complicated, massage is a particularly useful way to treat the symptoms of frozen shoulder (pain and loss of range of movement). Research indicates that loss of external rotation ROM is the most common feature associated with frozen shoulder, even more so than raising the arm (abduction).

Sufferers reportedly progress through three phases which can be characterized by:

1. Pain and minor loss of ROM which lasts up to 12 months,
2. Pain and continuing loss of ROM which can last up to 12 months
3. Recovery of range of motion over a period of 12-24 months.

These phases are drawn from research, as well as our own personal experiences treating frozen shoulder at Health Place.
When considering treatment options for frozen shoulder, massage (done regularly) can help to alleviate some of the pain and stiffness experienced by sufferers. Massage is helpful as it increases blood circulation to the shoulder, can help to mobilize locked muscles, reduce stiffness and also helps to prevent the formation of scar tissue.

If you, or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of frozen shoulder, in any of the three stages identified, click here to arrange a 15-Minute Free Consultation at Health Place. We will perform a full assessment designed to give you some more information about frozen shoulder, as well as your progression and options for treatment and recovery.

Feel free to send us a private message if you have any questions or would like more information.