Frozen shoulder syndrome, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition caused when the capsule of connective tissue surrounding the bones, ligaments and tendons that make up the shoulder joint thicken and tighten around the shoulder joint, resulting in pain and restriction of movement. While doctors are not clear as to why this condition affects some people and not others, the risk of developing frozen shoulder increases for those recovering from a medical condition or procedure that affects the mobility of the arm such as a stroke, a surgery or an arm fracture. Frozen shoulder syndrome can last anywhere from a few months up to several years requiring painful physical therapy, injection of corticosteroids and numbing medications into the joint capsule or even surgery in a the most extreme cases. Given the pain, restriction of movement in the shoulder and significant impact of a person’s quality of life this condition can have many are turning to Chiropractic care for relief.
Frozen shoulder develops slowly over the course of months and consists of three stages, each of which can last months.
- Painful stage – This stage develops slowly.,At first there may be no loss of range of motion, however painmay occur with any movement of the shoulder. As this stage develops the shoulder will begin to lose much of its range of motion.
- Frozen stage – As the condition progresses into this stage the pain may begin to diminish but the shoulder becomes much stiffer, and there is a noticeable decrease in the shoulder’s range of motion.
- Thawing stage – Over time the range of motion in the shoulder will begin to improve, indicating the condition has entered the thawing stage.
While doctors are still not entirely clear on what specifically causes frozen shoulder syndrome there is speculation that it results from prolonged immobilization of the arm. Frozen shoulder syndrome is also more common in women between 40-60 years old, in a person’s non-dominant shoulder and in those with a sedentary lifestyle. For those that develop this condition, roughly 60% can expect to heal naturally within two years without any treatment. Those who seek chiropractic treatment however not only significantly reduce their recovery time; they can reduce the pain associated with the condition while greatly increasing the shoulder range of motion.
The chiropractic approach to frozen shoulder syndrome focuses on making adjustments to the back, neck, shoulder and spine to help relieve some of the pressure on the shoulder joint while at the same time helping to improve the shoulder’s range of motion. In the painful stage of this condition the main focus of treatment is managing pain and inflammation within the shoulder. Once the condition has transitioned into the frozen stage, a chiropractor can make adjustments to reduce pain and increase range of motion with considerably less discomfort to the patient. While typically chiropractic adjustments are painless in a frozen shoulder patient they can be painful, especially the first few adjustments, if no anesthesia is used.
After adjustment a patient’s range of motion in the affected shoulder can improve by 50% or more. In addition, most patients report a notable reduction in the amount of pain in the shoulder after adjustment. Along with these chiropractic adjustments most chiropractors will also stress the importance of ongoing aggressive home care by prescribing patients a number of exercises and stretches, which will help increase the effectiveness of the chiropractic adjustments. These exercises along with ongoing treatment and subsequent adjustments can continue to improve the patient’s range of motion and decrease pain in the shoulder allowing it to heal.