Shoulder mobility is one of those things we all take for granted, until we can’t do it anymore because of something like a frozen shoulder.
Then, even the simplest tasks like reaching for a can of soup on a high shelf or zipping up a dress can seem like climbing Mount Everest!
But, here’s some joyful news: chiropractic care has been stepping up its game when it comes to frozen shoulders! Chiropractors are the superheroes ready to swoop in to save the day, restoring your shoulder’s range of motion and getting you back to doing the things you love – minus the shoulder stiffness and pain.
Let’s delve deeper into how chiropractic care can give you a helping hand (or shoulder!) in the fight against frozen shoulders.
If your shoulder decides to “freeze,” there’s always help available to “thaw” it out!
The Anatomy of Your Shoulders
Our shoulders are one amazing piece of machinery — they’re the most flexible joint in our bodies, allowing us to make all those wild movements, like throwing a ball or waving at someone.
The shoulder is made up of three bones: the collarbone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the upper arm bone (humerus). The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade, called the glenoid.
A combination of muscles and tendons, which we call the rotator cuff, keeps your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. These tissues also help you lift and rotate your arm.
On top of the shoulder sits the acromion. It can bump or rub against the rotator cuff and the fluid-filled sac (bursa) that allows your rotator cuff tendons to glide freely when you move your arm. Such instances cause symptoms such as irritation or injury.
A strong, flexible sheath of fibrous tissue known as the joint capsule surrounds the shoulder joint. In the case of a frozen shoulder, it’s this capsule that becomes thick and tight, causing all that discomfort and limited movement.
What is a “Frozen Shoulder”?
A frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that affects your shoulder joint. It often kicks in when the flexible tissue that surrounds your shoulder joint thickens and tightens, limiting your shoulder movements.
Imagine your shoulder acting like it’s in the middle of the coldest winter — it doesn’t want to move, feels stiff, and hurts. That’s what a frozen shoulder feels like.
A frozen shoulder can develop when you stop using the joint normally due to an injury, pain, or a chronic health condition (diabetes, stroke, etc.). Any shoulder problem can lead to a frozen shoulder if you don’t work on reaching full range of motion.
The unpleasant part about a frozen shoulder is that it can be slow to recover. Fortunately, plenty of treatment avenues, like physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, medications, and surgery, are available to address this condition.
The 3 Phases of the Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
The frozen shoulder syndrome consists of three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing.
The Freezing Stage
The freezing stage is the phase when your shoulder starts to ache and become stiff. It literally feels like your shoulder is freezing up! Unfortunately, this phase can last anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months.
The Frozen Stage
During the frozen stage, your shoulder becomes stiffer and harder to use.
The good news is that in this stage, the pain might actually decrease a bit.
The bad news? This phase can last for 4 to 6 months, and your shoulder’s lack of mobility might affect your day-to-day activities.
The Thawing Stage
The thawing stage is the phase when things start to heat up, in a positive way. Your shoulder starts to “thaw,” allowing for an improved range of motion.
Patience is key during this stage, as it might take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years for your shoulder to get back to normal.
What are the Causes of Frozen Shoulder?
The causes of frozen shoulders are unclear even to the most seasoned experts. In fact, sometimes it can just show up out of the blue, which can be a bit of a bummer. However, certain factors can predispose you to this condition:
Sustaining Injury or Undergoing Surgery
If you’ve had to keep your shoulder from moving for a while (say, in a sling), it might decide to freeze up on you. That’s because when your shoulder isn’t getting moved around, the connective tissue can thicken and tighten up, leaving you with a frozen shoulder.
Dealing With Certain Conditions
Conditions like diabetes or thyroid-related issues predispose you to a frozen shoulder. The reason for this is not exactly clear, but it does seem that these conditions are linked to frozen shoulders more often.
Age and Gender
Frozen shoulder typically affects patients between 40 and 60 years old, and it’s more common in women than men.
Frozen Shoulder Can Recur in the Opposite Shoulder
There’s a higher chance you’ll experience a frozen shoulder if you’ve had it before, especially on the opposite side.
What are the Common Symptoms of the Frozen Shoulder Syndrome?
If you’re suspecting you might have a frozen shoulder, here are some telltale signs that can give you a clue:
- Pain: It’s not just a mild soreness, but a steady ache that can keep you up at night. It usually sticks around in the shoulder area, spreading to the outer shoulder and even the upper arm.
- Limited range of motion: Suddenly, reaching for the top shelf or doing a quick shoulder roll isn’t as easy as it used to be. It might even feel like an invisible force is holding your shoulder back when you try to move it.
- Stiffness: Your shoulder might feel as though it’s caught in a vise, becoming rigid and refusing to cooperate.
- Difficulty with daily activities: Dressing, showering, or even brushing your hair can become a major task.
How is Frozen Shoulder Syndrome Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a frozen shoulder is a process of elimination and observation.
Your physician will first ask about your symptoms and take a closer look at your medical history. They will ask questions about when you first noticed the pain, how severe it is, and what movements make it worse, to get a better sense of your condition.
Next, your physician will ask you to perform some arm and shoulder movements, such as raising your arm, rotating your shoulder, or reaching across your body. This basic physical exam will help ascertain the degree of your restricted movement.
The tricky thing about diagnosing frozen shoulder is that its symptoms can look a lot like other shoulder issues. Therefore, your physician might request imaging tests like an X-ray, an MRI, or an ultrasound. These tests aren’t designed to spot the frozen shoulder itself, but to ensure there’s nothing else going on, like arthritis or a torn rotator cuff.
How Does Chiropractic Care Address Frozen Shoulder?
Chiropractic adjustments are an excellent, non-invasive way to address your frozen shoulder symptoms!
By focusing on improving joint mobility and breaking down scar tissue, our chiropractic techniques can help get your shoulder back to its normal, pain-free self!
Chiropractic Shoulder Manipulation
Picture your chiropractor gently moving your shoulder to its limits — that’s what chiropractic manipulation is all about! This process helps to stretch or break down the adhesions (sticky bits of scar tissue) causing your shoulder stiffness and pain.
The goal of a chiropractic manipulation is to get your shoulder joint moving freely again with immediate pain relief. But, it’s not a one-time fix. You might need a few sessions to get the full benefit, so patience is key.
Active Release Technique (ART)
Active Release Technique, or ART, is akin to a laser-focused massage. Your chiropractor uses their hands to apply pressure to specific muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your shoulder while you move your arm.
The combination of applied pressure and specific movements will improve your range of motion, break down scar tissue, and reduce pain.
Just like with shoulder manipulation, it can take a few sessions to see the best results.
What are the Chiropractic Treatment Benefits for Frozen Shoulder?
Let’s talk about why having a chiropractor handle your frozen shoulder is an absolute game-changer.
Immediate Shoulder Pain Relief
Patients with shoulder joint pain will quickly see their discomfort levels decrease after their first chiropractic treatment.
No More Limited Range of Movement
If you’ve got a frozen shoulder, you know all about limited movement.
Chiropractic care will help you reclaim your shoulder’s range of motion. Whether you want to swing a golf club, reach for a high shelf, or just give someone a good old-fashioned high five, chiropractic treatment can get you back to your everyday activities without that annoying stiffness holding you back!
Providing a Personalized Treatment Approach
Instead of going for a one-size-fits-all approach, your chiropractor will customize the treatment to fit your specific needs. No two shoulders are the same, so why should treatment be any different? They’ll work with you to develop a plan that suits your body, your lifestyle, and your pain levels.
The Chiropractic Mindset Focuses on Proactivity
With regular chiropractic care, you can help prevent future instances of frozen shoulders. By keeping your shoulder joint healthy and mobile, you’re less likely to face this issue down the line!
What are the Other Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder?
While chiropractic care is an effective way to deal with a frozen shoulder, it’s not the only option on the menu. Let’s dive into some of the other ways you can tackle this problem:
- Physical therapy: PT is like your shoulder’s personal trainer. Our list of 10 exercises will help increase flexibility and range of motion while strengthening the muscles around the joint. It’s all about getting that shoulder moving again!
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and discomfort.
- Steroid injections: They are the big guns when it comes to knocking out inflammation and pain. Steroids are injected directly into the shoulder joint to provide some much-needed relief.
- Joint distension: During this procedure, sterile water is injected into the shoulder joint to stretch the tissue and improve range of motion.
- Surgery: Surgical treatment is recommended only when all other treatments have failed. Your surgeon will remove the scar tissue and adhesions from inside the shoulder joint.
Everyone’s different, so the best approach for you might be different than for someone else. Be sure to chat with your healthcare provider about the best option for your circumstances. Here’s to getting that shoulder thawed out and moving again!
Unleash Your Mobility With Chiropractic Care for Your Frozen Shoulder!
At Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, under the leadership of Dr. Gregory Doerr, adheres to the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care in a comfortable, healing atmosphere.
Access our contact form or call us at (201) 945-4075 to learn more about our chiropractic treatment services! Our chiropractic offices at 532 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, and 62 Summit Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601, are ready to welcome you as we proudly serve New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD, areas. Also, feel free to access our blog, Facebook, and Instagram pages for more information on chiropractic treatments!
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- “Frozen Shoulder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Aug. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/frozen-shoulder/symptoms-causes/syc-20372684. Accessed 5 Jul. 2023.
- “Why You Should Consider Chiropractic If You Suffer From Frozen Shoulder.” Gonstead Chiropractic Fort Mill SC, 7 Mar. 2018, gonsteadchiropracticcenter.com/why-you-should-consider-chiropractic-if-you-suffer-from-frozen-shoulder/. Accessed 5 Jul. 2023.