Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder

In this post we discuss a condition that, if you have it, you know exactly how it feels (it feels like “ouch”, and “yuck”, and “no thanks”).  Perhaps however, you know not what it is commonly called. It is a condition of the shoulder…so let’s start there.

Like virtually everything else on our bodies, our shoulder is way more intricate and interesting than many of us give credit for!  Three separate bones combine to form the shoulder joint. Those three bones are:  the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). Tissue then surrounds this shoulder joint and holds everything together. This is called the shoulder capsule.

Frozen Shoulder is a condition that can afflict this joint. It is characterized by varying degrees of stiffness (there’s the frozen part) and pain.

This is because for sufferers of frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule becomes thick and tight, so much so that it is hard to move. Inflammation and bands of scar tissue form, and the liquid that usually surrounds and lubricates the joint –  called synovial fluid – becomes scarce.

The condition is caused by injury or trauma to the area, which can include (but is not limited to) tendinitis, bursitis, or damage/injury to the rotator cuff.  It is also thought that the condition may have an autoimmune component, such as arthritis.

Pain is usually constant, and is often worse at night, and with cold weather (which as aforementioned is not why it’s called frozen shoulder, but, it seems fitting, huh?). Certain movements or bumps/jostles can provoke episodes of pain and cramping.

Depending on the severity of the case, treatment may include surgery, physical therapy and/or massage therapy.

Massage therapy makes the usual go-to treatment list because it increases the blood circulation to the injured region. It also reduces muscle stiffness, and the formation of scar tissue. A regular regimen of massage will bring the greatest and most consistent relief, as pain and stiffness usually begin to abate after a course of massage treatments.

A quick trick which, while likely not a permanent fix for the condition but which may offer some nice temporary relief, is the pinch technique. By raising your arm to a 90 degree angle and somewhat firmly pinching deep into the muscle tissue beneath it (almost your armpit), you activate a trigger point that can alleviate and reduce pain in the shoulder.


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As beautiful and cozy as it is to watch the snowfall in our lovely, wintery Michigan city, perhaps the cold is flaring up YOUR frozen shoulder. If so, our therapists look forward to offering massage as a tool in your arsenal to combat it!