Frozen Shoulder

Written by Dr. Marina Liarsky, Chiropractor

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also called Adhesive Capsulitis, is still not a fully understood condition. Sometimes shoulders just tighten up, painfully and without warning, for several months. Certain individuals may be more prone to developing frozen shoulder than others, for example: individuals with other diseases, such as diabetes, traumas with periods of immobilization, or wear-and-tear jobs/sports involving repetitive use of the upper body/shoulders muscles and joints.

The literature shows us that frozen shoulder occurs as a result of chronic inflammation affecting the capsular tissue of the shoulder. This kind of inflammation causes significant neovascularization (formation of new blood vessels), collagen proliferation (building block of ligaments/muscles), fibrosis (formation of scar tissue), and leads to contracture and further restriction of the shoulder capsule. All of the above tissue modifications contribute to changes in the shoulder joint range of motion. The motions that are being affected are reaching overhead, to the side, and behind the back.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis for frozen shoulder stems from the patient’s history as well as clinical examination, which entails series of movements, muscle tests, and assessment of the mechanics of the spine.

The need for x-ray to confirm frozen shoulder has been debated, but x-rays are often used to rule-out other shoulder conditions that can present with similar signs and symptoms as frozen shoulder.

How do you treat frozen shoulder?

There are many treatment interventions available for the management of frozen shoulder. Due to the vast number of health care providers treating this pathology, one should expect the treatments to vary from place to place and from person to person. Chiropractors can be part of the care team by using a combination of manual and exercise therapies to manage the symptoms of pain and increase motion in the shoulder joint. Some chiropractic techniques used for frozen shoulder are clinician assisted mobilizations, movements against resistance, muscle therapy, and chiropractic adjustments of the entire upper torso and upper limb kinetic chain. In addition, appropriate strength drills are added to compliment the overall care.

There is no “cure” for frozen shoulder, but it is crucial to seek care to decrease the progression and worsening of pain and limitation of shoulder motion.