December 8, 2022 danny

Frozen Shoulder

“My shoulder feels stuck” Dave said to me.  What do you mean by “stuck” I asked him? I can’t lift it above my head or reach behind my back. I can barely put my shirt on! “Well, what happened?” I asked. “Nothing!” Dave said. And that is where our story begins…. 

Dave is a 50-year-old male who loves two things, surfing and golfing.  Sound familiar? Well, it should! Because these are two of my favorite past times as well. And when one of my patients can’t do what they love to do, especially when those activities are my passions, I selfishly make it a personal mission to help them find a solution. 

When Dave came into the office he wasn’t in as much pain as I had suspected. But. I did notice about 50% decrease in range of motion in multiple directions. Specifically external rotation, internal rotation and flexion. In simple terms he couldn’t wash his hair, scratch his back or reach up to grab a glass from the cabinet. These were simple everyday moves we do all the time. So, swinging a golf club or paddling were completely off the table.  

So, what happened I asked Dave once again. Nothing, he repeated.  No fall, no injury no new exercise plan. Nothing. I had to break the news to Dave. He had Frozen Shoulder. Specifically Adhesive Capsulitiis (which really needs an MRI to confirm). But I had seen it enough times to know that an MRI wouldn’t change the treatment and according to the evidence the outcome either.  

A quick comment on frozen shoulder. It is one of those conditions that is still a bit of an enigma. Many experts (including myself) still debate on why this happens.  But in short, adhesions form in the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint and limits our range of motion in a predictable pattern. I won’t bore you with the details but if you would like to read more about the condition itself click here

Let’s talk about treatment.  Treatment can range from steroid injections to chiropractic to physical therapy to surgery to nothing.  I have seen the most success with a combination of an early steroid injection aimed at decreasing pain and inflammation, combined with early movement-based interventions such as chiropractic and rehab exercises. These interventions have 3 goals: 

  • Stretching the shoulder capsule and surrounding musculature. 
  • Strengthening the surrounding musculature of the rotator cuff, shoulder girdle, and postural muscles of the upper back. 
  • Improve mobility of the upper and mid back 

Lucky for Dave this worked. For others, they are not so lucky. Frozen shoulder can last from 2 – 24 months (about 2 years) unbelievably! In some individuals it never completely resolves. 

I wish I could tell you there was some magic formula but there is not. In my experience the key is early intervention and consistency of exercises. This can be difficult since this condition can be very painful in the initial stages. But persistence pays when treating frozen shoulder. 

Are you dealing with shoulder pain? We can help! 

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