In my 35 years of chiropractic practice I have helped many patients who have a condition called, frozen shoulder. It is one of the most painful conditions a person can experience. It also restricts the person’s ability to comfortably use their shoulder which greatly impacts their quality of life. This article will detail what a frozen shoulder is exactly, recent research about the condition and how it can be helped by looking at the whole picture.
A frozen shoulder is described as a painful restriction of the shoulder’s range of motion. It is also called adhesive capsulitis (AC). The term adhesive capsulitis is a medical description of what happens when the shoulder joint is injured. There is a tough sheath of tissue surrounding the bones that make up the joint of the shoulder that is called the capsule. If the shoulder is sufficiently injured the capsule can become inflamed and we call that capsulitis. People with capsulitis of the shoulder tend to restrict their movements and use the shoulder less. This can result in adhesions developing in the shoulder joint which causes a mechanical reduction of the ability to move the shoulder normally. These adhesions of the shoulder capsule give us the name: adhesive capsulitis. The more general, common, nonmedical name given is frozen shoulder.
A research study in the Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions, September 2019 notes that about 3% of adults develop the condition in their lifetime. In this study researchers observed that mobilization and stretching of the bones and tissues of the shoulder are effective for improving the ranges of motion in the shoulder joints of patients with AC.
As a chiropractor, I am trained to look not only at the shoulder but also the whole picture including other areas that may be associated. I certainly use techniques like mobilization and stretching for the shoulder itself. Also, a large bone of the shoulder girdle called the scapula must be examined for restrictions. If restrictions exist, the scapula must also be stretched and mobilized. Additionally, bones of the patient’s neck or cervical spine may have misalignments and/or be moving improperly. This can irritate the joints and nerves of the neck which can cause the muscles of the shoulder girdle to become tightened and be in spasm. If this is the case, chiropractic adjustments can help to correct misalignments and improper movement of the cervical spine to relax the musculature.
Anti-inflammatory medications and steroid injections are sometimes utilized to treat a frozen shoulder. However, it is important for a healthcare provider to evaluate all the areas associated with frozen shoulder to fully correct the problem. By looking at the entire picture of AC most patients can achieve pain free, fully functional, restoration of their very painful, restrictive condition of frozen shoulder/adhesive capsulitis.
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