Fortunately, we can show our patients ways to control the pain and regain full range of motion and full function in a lot less time. Often, the actual cause of this condition is unknown. The medical community is still debating over possible causes. However, Frozen Shoulder usually occurs in three distinct phases:
This stage is characterized by pain in and around the shoulder and progressive loss of range of motion.
Pain is actually reduced in this stage. The range of motion of your shoulder seems to be stuck, not decreasing or increasing.
This stage is characterized by a slow increase in range of-motion of the shoulder. It is also a stage of increased weakness due to the disuse atrophy of the shoulder.
Examination and Diagnosis
The diagnosis of Frozen Shoulder is usually made after an examination. X-rays or an MRI are usually not prescribed, unless the doctor needs to rule out other conditions such as osteoarthritis or significant tear(s). Patients with Frozen Shoulder have a very limited range-of-motion in both active and passive ranges of motion. Active range-of-motion is when you move yourself; passive range of motion is when someone moves your arm for you. In addition to the decreased active range-of-motion in the shoulder joint itself, it is common to find significant trigger points in several of the rotator cuff muscles. This is especially true of a muscle called the subscapularis,as pointed out by Janet Travell, author of “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction”. Trigger points in the subscapularis muscle refer pain to the back of the shoulder (deltoid muscle), shoulder blade (scapulae), and even the wrist.
Treating Frozen Shoulder
There is no doubt that Frozen Shoulder is one of the tougher conditions to treat. The good news is that 80 – 90% of patients suffering from Frozen Shoulder will eventually experience a complete recovery. The bad news, recovery that is based on conventional therapy (muscle relaxants, corticosteroid injections) can take a very long time (twelve to forty-two weeks).
Fortunately there are alternatives to these traditional therapies, which with the right therapy and exercises can reduce treatment time to between 4 to 10 weeks in most cases. I have consistently seen positive results in over 80% of Frozen Shoulder cases that we treated with a combination of specifically designed soft-tissue protocols along with rehabilitative exercise routines.At our office, we often use a treatment protocol that involves:
- Using Cold Laser (LLLT) to the involved shoulder prior to treatment in order to increase blood circulation, reducing swelling and to make the tissue more malleable.
- Administering appropriate hands-on soft-tissue and joint adjusting protocols directly to the shoulder and surrounding areas. (Active Release Technique, Graston, Fascial Distortion Model, and Chiropractic Manipulation to the shoulder and possibly other joint areas).
- Acupuncture (using pin-point laser and Piezo electric stimulation) for not only trigger points directly on the muscle, but also for sites away from the shoulder along meridians that affect shoulder function.
- A gentle shoulder exercise routine that mobilizes both the joint and the soft-tissues involved in this condition, following-up with more advanced exercise routines that address range-of-motion, strength, and flexibility as the patient improves.
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