Frozen Shoulder: How to Let it Go

By Krista Elliott

Our shoulders are the Jan Brady of our musculo-skeletal system: They're completely forgotten about until they start complaining. And if you have a shoulder that's been stubbornly stiff and sore, you may have the oddly-named frozen shoulder. 

What is Frozen Shoulder?

While a frozen shoulder may sound like an impressively intimidating upgrade from the cold shoulder, or like something you'd find in the meat department of the supermarket, it's neither soul-crushing nor delicious. Instead, frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is an unusual condition marked by progressive pain and stiffness in the shoulder that tends to resolve on its own within a year or two.

The earmark of frozen shoulder is that it happens in stages. In the intiial "freezing" stage, the shoulder starts to experience a increasing amount of stiffness. As well, it hurts to move your shoulder, even if it's just small and gentle motions. In the "frozen" stage, the shoulder becomes very hard to move. The bright side is that pain usually lessens at this point, helping make up for the fact that you have a beast of a time moving your arm. This stage lasts around four to six months. Lastly, in the "thawing" stage, the range of motion starts to return. It can take anywhere from six months to two years for your shoulder to return to normal. 

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

The primary cause of frozen shoulder is not the touch of a cartoon princess but the thickening and tightening of the shoulder capsule, which is strong connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint. Eventually, this capsule becomes so tight as to severely restrict motion. Risk factors include diabetes, and recent immobilization of the shoulder joint (such as when following surgery). It's still unknown, however, why those factors contribute to an increased incidence of frozen shoulder. 

How Can Chiropractic Care Help? 

A skilled chiropractor, like the professionals at The Joint Chiropractic, can work with you to treat frozen shoulder. Range-of-motion exercises, tissue manipulation, and targeted and gentle adjustments with plenty of patient feedback are a few of the treatment methods that may help bring relief from your frozen shoulder pain and immobility. Because frozen shoulder is notoriously difficult to treat, chiropractic treatment should also be combined with at-home exercises that help to improve the joint's range of motion. Keep in mind that frozen shoulder syndrome can take several years to fully heal, and requires ongoing treatment.

Frozen shoulder isn't cool, but with help from The Joint Chiropractic, relief may be possible.