Chiropractic for Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder not only causes pain and discomfort, it can also be debilitating, or even require surgery. If you are unsure whether frozen shoulder is the cause of your shoulder pain, you can confirm the diagnosis by the two most likely symptoms before and after attempting to rotate the shoulder: pain and stiffness, with the inability to enjoy a free range of motion. Frozen shoulder affects about two percent of the general adult population. It is most likely to occur in people between the ages of 40 and 60. No data suggest that any gender, occupation, or arm domination is more predominant in those who suffer from it. Diabetic individuals however do have an increased risk of developing frozen shoulder.

Chiropractic is an effective alternative treatment option for frozen shoulder because it focuses, not on the symptoms, but on the root of the problem. For instance, pain medication treats pain—but not the underlying problem. Side effects from pain medication might only aggravate a person’s well being, and create complications but not resolution of the condition. Chiropractic can offer, most importantly, a preventive to occurrence and recurrence.

Why use Chiropractic for Frozen Shoulder?

The use of chiropractic in treating frozen shoulder is two-fold: chiropractic can be used to prevent frozen shoulder, and also to treat the condition if prevention has not succeeded. Prevention with the use of chiropractic can address lifestyle issues that can also help to prevent or manage those illnesses and factors that might lead to frozen shoulder

The regular use of chiropractic and the healthy lifestyle measures that work in concert with it, such as healthy diet and regular exercise, might help prevent the onset of such conditions as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases that would increase the likelihood of mobility issues. Even with aging, chiropractic is believed to help stimulate physical health and thus offset the common ailments that are often associated with aging.

Once frozen shoulder occurs, the most common form of chiropractic treatment is electrical stimulation, also known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). This treatment is commonly used in pain management. TENS uses a small electrical current that radiates to key locations on a nerve path through electrodes that are fastened to the skin. Though the exact science remains uncertain, TENS is believed to work by stimulating the release of pain-inhibiting molecules (endorphins), or to enable the obstruction of the pain fibers carrying what the human body translates as pain.

Orthopedic physicians will use shoulder manipulation with the patient under a general anesthetic in an attempt to relieve the stiffness that comes with frozen shoulder, which is not considered an alternative medical treatment. Chiropractors do not use anesthetics in treating frozen shoulder, but instead employ a variety of techniques to manage the pain and restore range of motion in the shoulder. Chiropractors often use heat and cold stimulation to relieve pain, as do orthopedic physicians. In some instances, a qualified chiropractor may incorporate other forms of alternative medicine in the treatment of frozen shoulder, such as acupuncture—an adjunctive practice not uncommon among chiropractors today.

How Can Chiropractic Help Frozen Shoulder?

Chiropractic used in the treatment of frozen shoulder addresses the most practical issue of all: getting the body to move easier, and the person back to an active lifestyle. Once the body is aligned and can move with fewer restrictions, the need for pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications decreases.

The most crucial way that chiropractic helps frozen shoulder is in prevention. Chiropractic-related therapies will influence diet, exercise, and the maintenance of the body’s alignment. Maintaining a sensible weight, a healthy immune system, and a focus on adequate exercise is essential for good health, especially for maintaining good blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals. Chiropractic can limit the devastating effects of all forms of physical disability such as frozen shoulder—even as research into its cause remains inconclusive.

In the majority of cases, chiropractic involves few risks and has been proven beneficial in treating a misalignment such as frozen shoulder. Reputable chiropractic professionals will assure their patients of the best program to follow in maintaining optimum physical movement and a quality life.

What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a non-invasive alternative medical treatment that focuses on the spine and its proper alignment. Spinal manipulation is performed by a chiropractor to ensure proper alignment. The premise of chiropractic is that if the spine is properly aligned, physical health—including the functioning of the internal organs and any nervous system disorders—is maintained or restored.

Since 1895 when Daniel David Palmer established modern day chiropractic, the primary basis for chiropractic has been the release of force that puts pressure on the spine to correct its alignment. According to the theories that go back to ancient practices, the health of the body’s nervous system, located in the spine, is the key to maintaining overall physical health.

Chiropractic methods primarily fall into two groups of practitioners—those who follow Palmer’s philosophy strictly and see spinal alignment as the primary reason for disease, and those who believe that other factors such as viruses and bacteria also play a role in compromising health. What every chiropractor believes is that the underlying cause for loss of resistance to disease is centered in spinal alignment and how this affects the nervous system.

In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractors also engage in other therapeutic techniques when treating a person, including:

  • Electrical stimulation
  • Heat and ice
  • Massage therapy
  • Rest
  • Rehabilitative exercise
  • Diet, weight loss or other lifestyle consultation
  • Dietary supplements

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is the colloquial term for the medical condition known as adhesive capsulitis. It is best defined as an inflammatory condition restricting motion in the shoulder. The term is derived in reference to the capsule of a shoulder joint. This joint includes the ligaments that attach each of the shoulder bones to each other. An inflammation within the capsule will disable the shoulder bones, causing stiffness, and hamper the range of movement crucial to the most everyday movements. If these factors are in place, frozen shoulder will occur.

According to health professionals who treat frozen shoulder, the condition generally follows a course of three stages:

  • Stage one: a slow onset of pain, and the shoulder gradually loses the range of motion. This stage can last from six weeks to nine months.
  • Stage two: a slow improvement in pain relief, with stiffness remaining. This stage can last from four to nine months.
  • Stage three: a “thawing” as shoulder slowly regains motion and pain is relieved. This stage can last from five to 26 months.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

Determining the cause of frozen shoulder remains problematic. Sometimes there is no known cause. Certain factors do increase the likelihood that people will suffer from it.

The conditions associated with developing frozen shoulder can include:

  • Diabetes
  • Shoulder trauma, including surgery
  • History of open heart surgery
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • History of cervical disk disease

Diabetic individuals of all races and genders will be more likely to develop frozen shoulder than any others. Statistics show that 10 to 20 percent of all diabetics will suffer from frozen shoulder, though the reason for this remains unknown.

Frozen shoulder might also occur in a shoulder that has been immobilized for a long period of time—as in the instance of a person suffering from other injuries or illnesses that would have caused temporary incapacitation.

Additional Resources

"An Introduction to Chiropractic." National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

"Frozen shoulder.” American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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