Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a long-term, rare and disabling condition which is commonly misdiagnosed. Thankfully, problems that patients may think of as ‘frozen shoulder’ often turn out to be less serious conditions such acute tendonitis in one of the stabilising (rotator cuff) muscles of the shoulder.

Rotator cuff injuries:

The rotator cuff muscles are a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint, acting to stabilise the joint through movement.

How are they injured?

The rotator cuff muscles and tendons can become painful and inflamed by the trauma of a one-off event such as a sporting injury or strain or can also build-up over time by repetitive activities – especially where the hand is held above shoulder level for long periods (e.g. plasterers and painter/decorators.).

How can osteopathy help?

Osteopaths can help mobilise the shoulder by articulating, massaging and stretching the tissues in order to reduce pain and inflammation in the area. They can also work to mobilise the areas of the neck and back which relate to the shoulder, maximising its overall range of movement.

Osteopaths may also use acupuncture (dry needling) to penetrate deep into the shoulder to help reduce the effects of inflammation.


Frozen shoulder:

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is the commonly used term for a condition known as ‘adhesive capsulitis’. It is a disabling condition in which the fibrous capsule surrounding the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint becomes inflamed causing pain and severe restriction. Pain is fairly constant and is often worse at night.

How is it caused?

There is no known cause of frozen shoulder although it is thought sometimes to be triggered by trauma, injury or possibly even stress.

Frozen shoulder is a long-term (chronic) condition and can take between 6 months and 3 years to resolve.

How can osteopathy help?

The ‘typical’ period for a frozen shoulder to resolve is around 18 months. This can be split into three separate 6 month phases as follows:

Freezing phase (first 6 months)

This is the most painful period where the inflammation is at its height. Moving and directly stretching the shoulder at this point may aggravate the condition therefore the osteopath can help by mobilising and stretching the areas around the joint to enable them to cope as best they can.

Frozen phase (second 6 months)

This is the phase where the pain starts to decrease, although the restriction remains. Osteopaths can work more in this phase to stretch out the shoulder and increase its range of movement.

Defrosting phase (third 6 months)

This is the final phase where the osteopath can continue to work on mobilising the joint in addition to advising on exercises to strengthen the muscles that will have wasted whilst the joint was restricted.