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Chiropractic Care for Frozen Shoulder

Published Date: 
July 6, 2023
A man is grasping his shoulder, because he suffers from frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder is a term used to describe stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. Officially, the condition is known as adhesive capsulitis. 

In most cases, the condition comes on gradually, peaks, and then resolves over time, usually within a few years. However, in the meantime, a frozen shoulder can interfere with everyday life and cause chronic pain. For many, the pain is worse at night, affecting their sleep.

The good news is chiropractic treatments can support the body’s natural ability to heal and help you recover from a frozen shoulder. It also enables you to avoid pharmaceutical treatments that might be recommended for treating the pain. In rare cases, doctors recommend surgery to treat frozen shoulders. Chiropractic treatment can help you avoid surgery and the risks involved. 

Phases of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a relatively chronic condition that gradually develops over time and lasts up to three years. The stages include: 

  • Freezing: During this stage, all shoulder movement causes pain. Mobility becomes limited. This stage lasts from 2 to 9 months.
  • Frozen: During this stage, the pain might lessen, but the shoulder becomes stiffer. Use of the shoulder is limited. This stage lasts from 4 to 12 months.
  • Thawing: During this stage, the shoulder's movement begins to improve. This stage lasts from 5 months to two years.

Will Frozen Shoulder Go Away on Its Own?

It can, but it takes a long time. Most people experience symptoms of a frozen shoulder for up to two or three years. Treatment can speed up the healing process.

Common Causes of Frozen Shoulder

There is no exact action or event that causes a frozen shoulder to develop. It happens when the connective tissue capsule around the shoulder joint thickens and tightens. This restricts movement. It’s most likely to develop after someone has held their shoulder in the same position for an extended period. For example, following surgery or breaking your arm and holding it in a sling, the risk of a frozen shoulder is higher.

Risk Factors

Some things increase the risk of developing a frozen shoulder. For instance:

  • Age (people over 40 have a higher risk)
  • Sex (females have a higher risk)
  • Immobility or reduced mobility
  • Certain injuries, including rotator cuff injury, broken arms, and stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Hyper- and hypothyroidism
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
A woman is grasping her shoulder, in pain.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment Options

A variety of options is available for treating frozen shoulders. The goal of these treatments is twofold: to reduce pain and increase motion.

Treatment options include:

Chiropractic Techniques for Treating Frozen Shoulder

Chiropractic treatment is one of the most effective things you can do for treating a frozen shoulder. Chiropractic care aims to improve joint mobility, reduce inflammation, and ease pain. This supports the body’s natural inclination to heal and helps the shoulder regain movement and function in their shoulders. 

Chiropractor treating patient with frozen shoulder.

Chiropractors address issues with the musculoskeletal system using a variety of techniques. It’s considered one of the safest options for treating a frozen shoulder. Chiropractors use pressure near your shoulder joint to gradually restore mobility. This also eases pain in the area. 

Many patients experience additional benefits from treatment, such as reduced headaches, postural improvements, and overall better health. 

One of the most frequently used techniques for treating frozen shoulders is called the Niel Asher Technique. The goal is to manipulate the joint and muscle tissues, which freeze the connective tissue underneath. 

During the procedure, your chiropractor applies pressure to your shoulder joint in critical locations. They’ll stretch specific key points in the shoulder joint, which reduces pain and gradually resolves the condition. 

This alone is not enough to cure the problem. However, it’s an essential part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Chiropractic treatments address the range of motion in the cervical and upper thoracic spine. Your neck and upper back affect your shoulder function. Improving the range of motion and general health of the neck and back make avoiding and managing a frozen shoulder easier. 

Additionally, the nerves communicating with your shoulder are in the lower part of your cervical spine. Improving the communication that occurs within your nervous system promotes natural healing.

Chiropractors also manipulate the shoulder joint. This helps to restore proper joint motion and improve the position and function of the shoulder. 

Chiropractors also guide you on using exercises at home to enhance your healing. They’ll demonstrate the proper way to do these exercises and give you information concerning how often and for how long you should do these for optimal effect. 

Senior patient with arm held into the air by chiropractor during treatment for frozen shoulder.

Exercises that are most helpful for easing frozen shoulder with your chiropractor’s assistance or at home include: 

  • Wall crawl 
  • Pendulum stretch
  • Flexion/extension of the full range of motion with a broom
  • Towel stretch
  • Cross-body reach
  • Finger walk
  • Armpit stretch
  • Outward rotation
  • Starting to strengthen
  • Inward rotation

Finally, many chiropractors will suggest supplements to improve your condition. Many people dealing with frozen shoulder benefit from joint health supplements, including collagen protein. This supplement is derived from bone marrow and is one of the best options for supporting joint health. Not only can it help with a frozen shoulder, but it can also help you reduce your risk for other joint health issues. 

Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Frozen Shoulder

It’s essential to approach frozen shoulder treatment from a comprehensive perspective. Chiropractic care fits perfectly into a complete care regimen for joint health issues. It can be used in conjunction with other treatments, or it can be effective on its own for easing the discomfort caused by this problem. 

Chiropractic care makes it easier to control your pain, gradually increase the range of motion of your shoulder, and speed up the body’s natural healing process. It’s important to remember when you’re injured, your body wants to heal. Supporting this natural inclination to return to balance and good health is one of the most important things you can do. Chiropractic treatments help with this.

The benefits of chiropractic care for frozen shoulder also include:

  • Gentle Adjustments: Specific chiropractic techniques mobilize the shoulder joint, break up adhesions, and restore range of motion
  • Soft Tissue Therapy: Soft tissue techniques, including massage and trigger point therapy, relax tight muscles and reduce inflammation around the shoulder joint
  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Specific stretches and strengthening exercises help maintain joint mobility and improve overall function
  • Posture Correction: Poor posture contributes to a frozen shoulder. Working with a chiropractor helps you identify and correct postural imbalances. This helps with the existing problem and reduces the risk of recurrence.

In addition to adjustment and manipulation, chiropractic treatments ensure that the symptoms on the surface are resolved and that treatment addresses the root cause. It’s common for patients to see a chiropractor for help with adhesive capsulitis and be sent home with various corrective exercises to perform at home. 

Additionally, physical therapy is integral to recovering from a frozen shoulder. Both chiropractic care and physical therapy work together to resolve the current issue with your shoulder and reduce the risk of future problems. Patients who work with chiropractors to resolve problems with a frozen shoulder gain the tools needed to improve their overall health and perform exercises at home to reduce their risk of recurring or chronic issues.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

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