Back Talk: Simple solutions for a 'frozen' shoulder

Layne Towery

I hurt my neck and shoulder last year cutting some tree limbs overhead. I thought the pain would just go away on its own - wrong. Over the last six months, the pain has slowly gotten worse and is now in my arm and elbow. I am unable to raise my arm to the side without assistance and forget about putting my arm behind my back. It is affecting my sleep and daily functions. My doctor says it is a "frozen" shoulder and suggested a heating pad, I guess to "thaw it out?" What treatments do you suggest? What can I do at home that will help? Do I need surgery?

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that usually occurs in people older than 40 years of age. If you have injured the shoulder or if you suffer from diabetes, heart disease or stroke, then you are more risk prone to contracting adhesive capsulitis.

Frozen shoulder problems are caused by inflammation of the joint lining, which causes scar tissue to form around the joint. This scar tissue restricts movement in the shoulder, causing it to freeze, and it can be very painful and at times interrupt your sleeping patterns.

Many times you will also have pain and stiffness in the neck and upper back along with chronic fatigue and depression. Simple daily tasks become a major chore. Here are some suggestions:

First of all, you need to find you a chiropractor who can perform some skilled spinal and/or shoulder joint manipulation. Manipulation helps break up adhesions and scar tissue in the joint to help restore restricted range of motion. Deep tissue massage will also help. Treatments will be taxing and sometimes painful, but you should show continued improvement.

Acupuncture to the neck and shoulder has also shown to help with the pain. Inflammation can be controlled with ice, analgesics and non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. No heat should be used. Water exercise is by far the best exercise you can do for your condition. I usually give the patient a specific routine to do in the pool.

Treatments may take several months, but daily progress should be seen. Frozen shoulder is self-limiting and usually resolves itself without the need for surgery. Most people regain 90 to 100 percent of their shoulder motion over time.

I highly recommend you use a home trans-electrical nerve stimulator every day. A home trans-electrical nerve stimulator will help stimulate the nerves and muscles of the shoulder, which will help speed up the healing process.

Layne Towery is a Victoria chiropractor and acupuncturist and can be reached at towerygl@yahoo.com or 361-570-6284.