frozen shoulder pain

Can Frozen Shoulder be Cured With Manual Therapy?

When a person has frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis), the tissues around the shoulder joint thicken and contract, causing pain and stiffness and reducing the shoulder’s range of motion. The effects of frozen shoulder can be long lasting and worsen if left untreated. The condition affects mostly people between 40 and 60, with women being affected more than men.

It is still unclear what causes frozen shoulder. Many believes it’s caused by inflammation, while other thinks its due to autoimmune response, when the body launches an attack against its own tissues and substances. Sometimes, frozen shoulders can occur when the shoulder is immobilized from injury, surgery or illness. However, in most cases the cause is not fully known.

What are the Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Symptoms may include the following:

  • Pain in the shoulder that develops gradually over several weeks or months.
  • Increased pain when the person moves the shoulder.
  • Pain for several weeks, followed by stiffness or difficulty moving the joint, for example lifting the arm above the head, scratching the back, reaching into the back pocket of trousers or fastening a bra.
  • A noise or rubbing sensation when moving the shoulder.

Who are at Risk of Frozen Shoulder?

The risk is high for people who do not follow any exercise rehabilitation programm following tendonitis or injury and for people who wear a sling for several days without stretching regularly. About 10% of people with a rotator cuff problem develop frozen shoulder. Immobilisation as a result of a stroke, heart condition or surgery can also trigger frozen shoulder. Other factors that can lead to a higher risk include thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

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Can Frozen Shoulder be Treated with Manual Therapy?

Most people develops a progressively worse shoulder condition, and visits the doctor with the expectation that the doctor would diagnose the condition and provide, or recommend appropriate treatment.

The problem is that almost all medium-severe shoulder conditions start with similar symptoms – and most medical doctors will have absolutely no idea what’s wrong with your shoulder. The doctor also has a waiting room full of patients and little time to investigate your case of joint pain, that may well turn out to be mild, and heal itself within days.

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So if you have been to your family doctor, the chances are that you will have been prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, and invited to return in a couple of weeks if the pain is still there.

If you are over 60, the doctor may have suggested that you have the onset of shoulder arthritis; if you lift weights, the doctor may have presumed that you have rotator cuff damage; and if the shoulder has been immovable for a long period, the doctor may assume that you have a frozen shoulder.

The bottom line, is that you will most likely leave the doctors clinic still in pain; with not too much of an idea of what’s wrong; and go back home to face more sleepless nights.

Too Many Patients are “Pushed” into Unnecessary Surgery

In many cases, your doctor may also have told you that the “only” treatment options for your condition (if the anti-inflammatory drugs don’t work) are corticosteroid injections – as a first step – followed by surgical intervention if the injections don’t produce the desired effect.

The truth couldn’t be further from the above! The unfortunate fact is that too many medical doctors have little or no understanding of manual therapy or natural medicine. They are predominantly men of science who have come to rely on drugs and surgery as the main tools of their trade.

In reality the human body is innately designed with phenomenal powers of self healing. Simply put, we are generally programmed to fix ourselves when something goes wrong. We all know that the body ages, and that there are circumstances (diseases, viruses, fractures, etc) where the body is unable to self-heal. This is where we are all thankful for the science and technology that steps in to fill the gap.

The Body has Phenomenal Powers to Self-Heal

When it comes to joint conditions (hips, ankles, elbows, knees, wrists, and shoulders) the body has superb inbuilt mechanisms for self-healing.

Take Frozen Shoulder as an example. This is one of the worst of all severe shoulder conditions. Nonetheless, even left totally untreated, a frozen shoulder will often go away and result in total recovery (sadly it’s a slow process of around 30 months) – all thanks to the body’s power to self-heal.

The simple truth is that around 95% of medium-severe shoulder injuries can be treated effectively by a trained and experienced manual therapist. No injections. No drugs. No surgery. Total recovery. This is exactly the reason why 95% of the injuries received by professional athletes are treated with manual therapy (with surgery attempted only as a last resort or where the manual therapists can see no other way)

What is a “Manual Therapist”?

An experienced manual therapist will typically have a deep understanding of the body’s power to self-heal. The manual therapist’s skill is to “communicate through touch” and thereby to send signals to the brain through the nervous system that encourage the healing process to activate or speed up.

There are many different types of manual therapist and patients often (naturally) are confused about “who treats what?”.

Who can Treat Your Shoulder?

The manual therapists who can successfully treat medium-severe shoulder conditions include Physiotherapists; Massage Therapists; Chiropractors; Osteopaths; Bowen Therapists; and many others with an array of related qualifications in manual therapy and natural healing.

As a patient, your main concern should be to find a manual therapist who is experienced in treating shoulders, and specifically in treating your condition. You should never be shy to “interview” a therapist, to ask questions relating specifically to your symptoms/condition/requirements and to ask about the extent and type of relevant experience that an individual manual therapist may or may not have.

Frozen Shoulder is a particularly nasty and disabling condition. It is extremely important to find a manual therapist who has the ability to accurately diagnose the condition itself, and the “phase” of the condition when the patient presents (this is extremely important as the treatment will differ according to the phase – either 1,2, or 3).

Not all manual therapists will have extensive experience in treating frozen shoulder and there are some who simply don’t like to treat the condition. Again, this is why it is important that you “interview” your manual therapist before you commence your treatment program.