Frozen (Not the movie) Shoulder

Photograph of a house covered in a thick layer of ice.

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, will result in inflammation, pain and stiffness with loss of range of movement in the shoulder. With the pain, daily tasks become more difficult to perform. Over time, the shoulder becomes very hard to move.

Frozen shoulder occurs in about 2% of the general population. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and occurs in women more often than men.

There are three identified stages of frozen shoulder:

The acute stage (lasting 2-9 months), is characterized mainly by pain, limited range of motion, and interruption of sleep due to increased pain at night.

The subacute or “frozen” stage (4-12 months) is marked by reduction in pain, increased stiffness and severely restricted range of motion.

The chronic or “thawing” stage (12-42 months) is the beginning of recovery, where pain is gone and range of movement gradually starts to improve.

But there is hope!

In addition to PT, massage therapy (bodywork) can help with the unthawing process. Regular massage sessions will help to minimize pain, loosen and relax the shoulder muscles. It by no means is a quick process. Frozen shoulder generally gets better over time, although it may take up to 3 years. The focus of treatment is to control pain and restore range of movement and strength through physical therapy.

Massage therapy is quite beneficial in treating the condition since it increases the flow of blood to the injured area and reduces the formation of scar tissue. Regular massage sessions are important for reducing muscle stiffness. Stiffness and pain caused by frozen shoulder can usually be relieved  with several massage treatments.

Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that involves the steady application of pressure on the shoulder muscles resulting in the breakage of adhesion’s which are generally scar tissues considered as being unhealthy.

Swedish massage is yet another effective massage therapy technique in the treatment of frozen shoulder. Swedish massage involves long strokes and gently kneading the surface muscle tissues to reduce stress and tension in the muscles.

Final thoughts

Massage is simply one component to the healing process. A doctors consultation is highly suggested. They will be able to determine the severity/stage through a variety of tests. If needed X-rays or an MRI may be called for to evaluate any structural problems.