What is Frozen Shoulder?

Illustration showing the bones of the shoulder

Frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis) is a condition characterized by pain and a loss in range of motion of the shoulder joint.  The shoulder is a “ball and socket” joint. The “ball” is the tip of the arm bone (the humeral head) and the socket is the glenoid fossa. Together they form the glenohumeral joint. The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up the shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. In the normal state, the shoulder joint has more range of motion than any other joint in the body. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens around the joint causing painful, restricted movement. The limits in motion can lead to a functionally useless joint.

What Causes It?

The cause is not always known. In some cases, Frozen shoulder has been associated with circumstances of prolonged immobility, as with recovery from a broken arm, surgery in general, rotator cuff surgery in particular or after a stroke. Age (40+), sex (females) and some medical conditions (Diabetes, an over or under active Thyroid or Parkinson’s disease) can be a factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing this condition.

Treatment Options

Treatment goals involve controlling pain and maintaining as much mobility as possible.  Your doctor will probably prescribe “over the counter” pain medications and physical therapy exercises to preserve and eventually improve the range of motion that you currently have. Other options and interventions exist that can be explored with your physician in the treatment of this condition. Massage therapy is among those options. It addresses the muscles of the shoulder and the surrounding musculature of the shoulder that may be guarding or bracing against further painful movement, or assisting in movement when that is not the muscle’s “typical” job. This can lead to an extension of pain, soreness and limitation in movement beyond the frozen shoulder region.

If you think you may have frozen shoulder see your physician for diagnosis. Then call for possible massage therapy treatment options.