Frozen Shoulder & Massage

Frozen shoulder is difficult to live with. You can’t move your arm like you used to, which means you miss out on things others around you are doing. Massage therapy can help with this!

What is frozen shoulder? 

Frozen shoulder is a condition that causes stiffness and pain in your shoulder. Symptoms usually take 1-3 years to resolve. It starts gradually and slowly worsens over time.

There is connective tissue in your shoulder joint that encases the bones, ligaments, and tendons. This connective tissue is called a capsule and it holds everything together. With frozen shoulder the capsule thickens, therefore reducing mobility. There is also less fluid that lubricates the joint, called synovial fluid, further worsening the ability to move.

What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder? 

The main symptoms are pain and stiffness that lead to reduced mobility in your arm and shoulder. The pain might be worse at night.

Frozen shoulder occurs in three stages: the freezing stage, the frozen stage, and the thawing stage.

The Freezing Stage

In this stage, you develop pain in your shoulder whenever you move it. The pain gets worse over time and your range of motion starts becoming limited. This stage can last 6-9 months.

The Frozen Stage

Your pain can improve, but stiffness gets worse. Moving your shoulder is difficult, making it harder to do your daily activities. This stage lasts 4-12 months.

The Thawing Stage

You regain your ability to move your shoulder freely. This stage can take from 6 months to 2 years.

What is the main cause of frozen shoulder?

Doctors aren’t sure what causes frozen shoulder, but they have identified some groups that are more at risk.

  • People at least 40 years old
  • Women
  • Immobility or reduced mobility of your shoulder, such as after a rotator cuff injury, broken arm, stroke, or recovery from surgery
  • Some disease, including diabetes, an overactive or underactive thyroid, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s disease

How does massage help with frozen shoulder? 

Massages can significantly reduce the pain you are experiencing. They also increase blood flow to the area, which relaxes muscles and reduces inflammation. This reduces stiffness in your shoulder and allows you to move more freely.

Regular massages can help your frozen shoulder run its course much faster and can help with the pain you feel. Range of motion can be greatly increased with a specific therapeutic massage treatment on your shoulder. 

Mobilization techniques and exercise instruction can have a very positive effect on not only the soft tissue but also on the nervous system in reducing fibrosis (tissue remodeling, or scarring).

What are the best types of massage for frozen shoulder?

Deep tissue massages are great in treating frozen shoulders. These massages reach farther than most do and relax deeper tissues. This can provide more lasting results than some other massages. It also results in increased mobility.

Another type of massage called myofascial release targets connective tissues in your body that will serve to increase range of motion and increase hydration of the tissues. Often, tension and dehydration can cause pain and stiffness and myofascial release therapy specifically targets this tension to help reduce pain and increase mobility.

Cupping is a type of tool used in massage that can help with frozen shoulder. This massage uses cups suctioned onto your skin to relieve pain and stiffness. It greatly increases blood flow, which stimulates repair in muscles and can help those muscles and connective tissues relax.

Finally, RAPID Neurofascial Reset is a great treatment option to help treat frozen shoulder and break up the adhesions within the capsule. Please give us a call to find out more about RAPID!

Does it hurt to have a frozen shoulder massaged? 

It shouldn’t be unbearable to get a massage for your frozen shoulder, but therapeutic and deep tissue massage can come with a bit of discomfort. Massage therapists should know how much pressure to use to prevent excessive pain and promote relaxation. If something really hurts, you should tell them and they will adjust to fit your needs.

How many massage treatments are recommended? 

There isn’t a set number of treatments you should get. One treatment is enough to significantly reduce pain and can increase mobility temporarily. That being said, frozen shoulder is a very stubborn condition. Regular massages will be required throughout its duration to see lasting results and to shorten the length of time you will be affected by this condition.

It would be best to book your first session and gauge your body’s reaction. Bi-weekly or monthly appointments are a good option, but in some severe cases you may want to come weekly. Listen to your body.

What can I do at home to help my frozen shoulder?

You can give yourself a massage, like one of the three listed here. YouTube is a good source to find other types of massages you can do on your own.

An easier option is stretching. You can do a pendulum stretch, in which you bend down and let your arm hang while you slowly move it in a circle. Another is the fingertip walk, where you stand three-quarters of an arm’s length away from a wall and slowly walk your fingers up the wall starting at waist level and ending when your pain level gets too high. 

There’s a lot of different techniques you can use to stretch your muscles. Just Google “stretches for frozen shoulder” and pick which ones you want to do, or be sure to jot down notes from exercises and stretches recommended by your RMT!

Frozen shoulder is aggravating, but there are ways to ease it. Massages are a really good option!

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