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What Causes A Frozen Shoulder and How Can a Chiropractor Help?

What Causes A Frozen Shoulder and How Can a Chiropractor Help

Most people visit the chiropractor for neck and back pain, but a surprising number of patients arrive with shoulder concerns. Shoulder mobility issues can negatively affect your quality of life and, if left untreated, can affect other areas, including your back and arms. Frozen shoulder is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder and builds up over time until you can’t move your arm at all, but what causes a frozen shoulder?

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, frozen shoulder is a condition that affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, with women reporting the condition more frequently than men. UCSF Health estimates that between 5% and 20% of the American population will develop frozen shoulders at least once in their lifetime.

The good news for people suffering from this condition is that it is treatable. If you want to know what causes a frozen shoulder or suspect you may have the condition, consulting New York’s trusted chiropractor may be the first step on your road to recovery. 

The Three Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a slow-building condition that can take several years to fully develop. Most patients experience the progression in three stages, where the symptoms get progressively worse. 

1. Freezing

The initial freezing stage can last between six weeks and nine months and involves a slow building of pain in the shoulder joint. This pain eventually results in the shoulder losing motion as the patient stops moving their arm due to increasing pain. 

2. Frozen

During the frozen stage, patients often experience diminished pain, but the stiffness in the shoulder worsens, and the shoulder may become completely immobile. Generally, this stage lasts between four to nine months if left untreated. 

3. Thawing

As the name suggests, this stage is a gradual restoration of the shoulder’s range of motion that can take up to several years to resolve.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

The shoulder joint is one of the most-used joints in the body and experiences significant wear and tear. It’s a complex mechanism of ligaments, tendons, bones, and muscles, and if one of these components fails, it affects the entire area. 

The shoulder joint has a protective capsule made from connective tissue that protects the joint while producing a lubricant known as synovial fluid. If this joint capsule thickens, it restricts the shoulder’s movement and eventually freezes the shoulder completely.

The pain associated with the freezing phase is likely due to the inflammation of the joint capsule, while the frozen phase is when the capsule has become thick enough to completely restrict movement in the joint. 

While a frozen shoulder can affect anyone in the population, certain medical conditions can increase the risk of frozen shoulder, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cardiac disease
  • A prior shoulder injury

Even shoulder injuries from car accidents can cause frozen shoulders. If you’ve been in a car accident, search for a “car accident chiropractor near me” online to ensure your injuries receive the care they need. 

Chiropractic Treatment for Frozen Shoulder

While a frozen shoulder will get better over time, early intervention can help control pain and restore motion faster.

A common technique that chiropractors may use to treat a frozen shoulder is the “Niel-Asher Technique.” This method manipulates the joint and muscle tissues and frees them from the connective tissue by gently stretching key points in the shoulder joint and rotator cuff. It’s a gradual process that may take several visits but often forms the foundation of any comprehensive treatment plan. 

Another common tool in the chiropractic treatment of a frozen shoulder is the Active Release Technique (ART) which breaks adhesions and releases scar tissue. It works similarly to the Niel-Asher Technique but focuses on deeper pressure to more effectively break adhesions to the connective tissue and restore freedom of movement. 

Additional Treatment Options

While chiropractors focus on treating what causes a frozen shoulder by attempting to loosen the connective tissue in the joint capsule, it’s only a small part of an effective treatment plan. Additional treatment options complement the techniques used, ensuring the shoulder joint is strong enough to prevent the condition from occurring again. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy typically consists of shoulder exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscles and stretch the joint tendons and ligaments. These exercises keep the joint moving, which is essential in preventing a complete loss of mobility during the frozen phase. 

Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections help reduce the inflammation surrounding the joint during the freezing phase, reducing pain for up to four months

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Root Cause of Frozen Shoulder?

While doctors still don’t fully understand the root cause of a frozen shoulder, it appears to be due to a gradual thickening of the connective tissue that protects the shoulder joint from wear and tear. What causes this thickening is unclear, but some doctors believe it may be the result of a previous shoulder injury, not moving the arm after a stroke, or a rotator cuff injury. 

What Is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of a Frozen Shoulder?

What Is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of a Frozen Shoulder

Seeing a chiropractor during the early stages is the fastest way to get rid of a frozen shoulder. Chiropractors can prescribe shoulder exercises that maintain shoulder mobility, reducing the length of the condition. 

Can a Frozen Shoulder be Caused by a Car Accident or Work-Related Injury?

Yes, a frozen shoulder can be caused by a car accident or work-related trauma. In fact, any trauma or injury to the shoulder, including whiplash from a car accident, can lead to a frozen shoulder. This is because the injury can cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the shoulder joint, which can eventually lead to the development of scar tissue and adhesions that restrict movement and cause a frozen shoulder. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience shoulder pain or stiffness after a car accident, as prompt treatment can help prevent a frozen shoulder from developing.

What Are the First Signs of a Frozen Shoulder?

The first sign of a frozen shoulder is continuous pain in the joint, especially when trying to move it. This pain will escalate over several weeks or months, and you may experience decreased shoulder mobility at the same time. Doctors in our directory accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection, so you have no reason to delay.

Knowing what causes a frozen shoulder and how to prevent a shoulder injury may help you avoid a frozen shoulder. If you’re experiencing the warning signs of the freezing phase or are deep into the frozen phase, we have chiropractors in our directory ready to help. Find a chiropractor by calling Injured Call Today at 800-897-8440; same-day appointments may be available.

How To Sleep With a Frozen Shoulder

Sleeping with a frozen shoulder can be challenging and uncomfortable, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier:

  • Sleep on your unaffected side: If your left shoulder is frozen, sleep on your right side, and vice versa. This can help reduce pressure on the affected shoulder and prevent further discomfort.
  • Use a pillow: Place a pillow between your arm and your body to help support your arm and reduce pressure on the shoulder joint.
  • Prop up your arm: Use a pillow or rolled-up towel to prop up your affected arm in a comfortable position. This can help relieve pain and discomfort while you sleep.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach: Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on your shoulders and make your frozen shoulder worse. Try to avoid this position and opt for sleeping on your back or side instead.
  • Use pain relief: If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, take pain relief medication as prescribed by your doctor. This can help you get a better night’s sleep and reduce inflammation in the shoulder joint.

How Long Does Frozen Shoulder Last?

Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly over time and can last for several months to a few years.

The duration of a frozen shoulder can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how quickly it is diagnosed and treated. In some cases, it may resolve on its own over time, while in other cases, it may require medical intervention.

Without treatment, the frozen shoulder can last up to two years or longer, with symptoms gradually improving over time. However, treatment can help speed up the recovery process and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Physical therapy and gentle exercises can help improve the range of motion and reduce stiffness in the shoulder joint. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may also be used to reduce inflammation and improve mobility.

Surgery may be recommended in severe cases where other treatments have been ineffective. However, this is generally a last resort option, and most cases of frozen shoulder can be managed without surgical intervention.

Why Does Frozen Shoulder Hurt More at Night?

Many people with frozen shoulder report that their symptoms are worse at night. There are several reasons why the condition may hurt more at night:

  • Inactivity: During the day, the shoulder joint is used frequently, which can help improve flexibility and mobility. However, at night, the shoulder may be inactive for several hours, which can cause stiffness and discomfort to set in.
  • Sleeping position: Sleeping in a position that puts pressure on the shoulder joint can cause pain and discomfort. Sleeping on the affected shoulder or on the stomach can exacerbate the symptoms of frozen shoulder.
  • Increased inflammation: Inflammation is a common symptom of frozen shoulder, and it may be more pronounced at night due to increased blood flow to the affected area.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes that occur during sleep can affect pain perception, making it easier to feel pain and discomfort.
  • Psychological factors: Stress and anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms of frozen shoulder, and these factors may be more pronounced at night when the body is at rest.

How to Prevent Frozen Shoulder

Preventing a frozen shoulder can be challenging, as it can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, surgery, and underlying medical conditions. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing a frozen shoulder:

  • Stay active: Regular exercise and physical activity can help improve flexibility and mobility in the shoulder joint, reducing the risk of stiffness and frozen shoulder. Gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises can be particularly beneficial.
  • Practice good posture: Poor posture can put strain on the shoulders and lead to muscle imbalances, increasing the risk of injury and frozen shoulder. Maintaining good posture can help reduce this risk.
  • Avoid repetitive movements: Repeatedly performing the same movements with the arms and shoulders can cause strain and injury, leading to frozen shoulder. Try to vary your movements and take breaks as needed.
  • Seek treatment for injuries: If you experience an injury to the shoulder, seek prompt medical attention to prevent further damage and reduce the risk of frozen shoulder.
  • Manage underlying medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can increase the risk of frozen shoulder. Managing these conditions through proper treatment and lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing the condition.