Frozen shoulder, otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis is a condition whereby someone experiences ongoing shoulder stiffness and pain that lasts at least several weeks at a time (it can last over a year, too!).
For many, frozen shoulder isn’t a condition they know about, or have even experienced. It’s most common in women and patients suffering from diabetes and affects people aged between 40 and 60.
What Is Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder, as the name suggests, is characterized by stiffness, pain, and limited range of movement in your shoulder (1).
In frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes tight. Stiff bands of adhesions then develop, creating a scenario where there is less synovial fluid in the joint (2).
The most common symptoms of frozen shoulder include:
– stiffness in and around the shoulder (usually happens in only one shoulder, not both)
– muscle, joint and bone pain in and around the shoulders or arms
– limited range of motion
– trouble moving and using the shoulders or arms normally (like getting dressing, sleeping normally, driving, etc.)
If not treated properly, symptoms can persist for up to a year.
Frozen shoulder typically occurs in three stages:
• Freezing (painful) Stage: the pain gets progressively stronger and the shoulder becomes stiff. Movements worsen pain and become harder to accomplish. The pain often worsens at night. This stage lasts between 6 to 9 months.
• Frozen (adhesive) Stage: pain stays constant or improves. The shoulder gets increasingly stiff and its range of motion is severely limited, making daily life difficult. This stage lasts 4-6 months.
• Thawing Stage: movement of the shoulder starts to improve and pain fades. It can occasionally return during and after healing. At the end of this 6-month stage, strength and motion shoulder return to normal, although it can take a full 2 years for a complete recovery.
What Causes Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is most likely to develop when inflammation increases around the shoulder due to shoulder immobility, or issues stretching the flexing the shoulder normally. This can happen, for instance, when someone is recovering from an injury.
Older people, or those with high levels of inflammation in the body (like diabetes or thyroid problems) are more likely to experience frozen shoulder.
Frozen shoulder can also be caused by inactivity or surgery, such as leading a sedentary lifestyle, or if your shoulder is in a sling from injury or surgery.
Conditions that increase frozen shoulder risk include:
– Cardiovascular disease
– Parkinson’s disease
It is diagnosed by a basic pressure test performed by your doctor. If the condition is very severe, you may require an X-Ray or MRI.
Natural Treatments for Frozen Shoulder
Some doctors treat frozen shoulder with steroids, numbing medications or painkillers. However, as we all know, this is usually just treating the symptoms and not the actual issues. Instead, here are a few things you can do to speed up your recovery process, naturally.
Before going into the stretches, make sure you apply a warm compress for 10-15 minutes, or take a warm bath to loosen up the stiff muscles.
1. Hot and Cold Compression
Alternating between hot and cold packs improves blood flow to your shoulder, which reduces pain and swelling. Although this can help reduce pain in the short-term, it should always be paired with stretching and exercises (such as those mentioned below).
2. Pendulum Stretch
1. Relax your shoulders while standing near a table.
2. Bring your healthy shoulder near the table, resting your hand on the table.
3. Lean over the table slightly and allow the affected arm to hang down.
4. Swing the arm in a small circle, about a foot in diameter.
5. Perform 10 revolutions in each direction, once a day.
3. Towel Stretch
1. Hold one end of a three-foot-long towel behind your back and grab the opposite end with your other hand.
2. Hold the towel in a horizontal position, and use your good arm to pull the affected arm upward to stretch it.
3. Repeat 10-20 times per day.
4. Armpit Stretch
1. Using your good arm, lift the affected arm onto a shelf about breast-high.
2. Bend your knees gently and open up the armpit.
3. Deepen your knee bend slightly, gently stretching the armpit, and then straighten.
4. With each knee bend, stretch a little further, but never force it.
5. Do this 10-20 times every day.
5. Finger Walk
1. Face a wall three-quarters of an arm’s length away.
2. Reach out with your affected arm and touch the wall at waist level with your fingertips.
3. Keep your elbow bent, and start to walk your fingers slowly up the wall as far you comfortably can.
4. Remember, your fingers should be doing the work, not the shoulder muscles.
5. Repeat 10-20 times per day.
6. Cross-Body Reach
1. Sit or stand, and using your good arm, lift your affect arm at the elbow and bring it up and across your body.
2. Apply gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder.
3. Hold for 15-20 seconds, and repeat 10-20 times per day.
7. Outward and Inward Rotation
1. For outward rotation and strength, hold a rubber exercise band between your hands, and rotate the lower part of the affected arm outward 15-20 times.
2. For inward rotation, hook one end of the rubber exercise band around a doorknob, and pull the band toward your body 15-20 times daily.
8. Supine Forward Flexion Stretch
1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms by your side.
2. Use your healthy arm to lift your affected shoulder above your head. Do not over stretch.
3. Hold for 15 seconds, and then gently release.
4. Relax and repeat 10 times.
9. External Rotation Stretch
1. Stand in a doorway with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle, as if you were reaching for a doorknob.
2. Face the side of the doorway, resting your right palm on the wall to the right of the doorway.
3. Rotate your whole body to the left, until you feel some resistance in your affected shoulder.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
10. Lowering Inflammation Naturally
To help control chronic inflammation in the body, and prevent injuries from re-occurring, eat a healthy, whole foods diet, low in acidity and high in alkalinity. There are many anti-inflammatories out there like turmeric, ginger, and magnesium that can aid in improving recovery. Almost all fruit and vegetables fight inflammation, so be sure to include plenty of them in your diet.
To reduce levels of inflammation in the body, try to avoid meat, eggs, dairy, wheat, refined sugar, GMO soy products, GMO foods, and any overly-processed food products. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume, and avoid sitting for long periods. Drink plenty of water and eliminate all chemical and toxin exposure from beauty products, household cleaning products, dish detergents, laundry detergents and scented candles.