Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder?

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Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis’  is a condition in which movements of the shoulder joint becomes progressively more restricted. It is More common in those of us over 40.

Although the complaint starts through injury to the shoulder, it doesn’t  have to have been a major trauma. I have had clients who have ‘felt something pull’ whilst simply pulling on a coat. With injury comes inflammation and pain and this will often lead to lack of use of the shoulder in an attempt to help protect the joint. Raising the arm becomes difficult making normally simple tasks such as washing your hair more demanding. Discomfort, stiffness and pain is usually worse at night.

The commonly used term Frozen Shoulder describes the  loss of movement experienced.  The term Adhesive capsulitis more accurately refers to the adhesions that occur at the head of the humerus (arm bone) and the capsule that surrounds that glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.


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The exact cause of shoulder pain can be extremely difficult to diagnose. The shoulder joint is full of soft tissue structures that may be the cause of, or, contributing to, the pain.  There are a number of tests that can be performed and a good case history will help. But in all honesty, because of the complexity of the joint, it may well be a best guess. The massage therapist should not attempt a diagnosis, however early conservative treatment may help to alleviate some of the symptoms.  If symptoms do persist then a scan may well be the most reliable way to achieve a correct diagnosis.

The good news is that frozen shoulder often corrects itself. The bad news is that this can take 18 month or more. The treatment meanwhile should focus on minimising the adhesive process and restoring and maintaining a good range of movement and reducing the pain. Massage will not access the adhesions directly.  Your massage therapist will work with you to provide massage, (not only to the soft tissue directly surrounding the shoulder but also facial lines connecting to that area and those areas compensating for the dysfunction caused elsewhere by the injury). You will engage in  active and passive range of movements eg Scapula (shoulder blade) to assist function,  or in the opposite hip to help stimulate reflex responses. Home care advice will be given. Specific exercises will be encouraged so that time away from the therapist is not wasted time and you can continue with the  improvements achieved during your visit.


So why live with it?

We can work together to prevent frozen shoulder having such an impact on your life.


Further reading – Nijmegen questionnaire






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