Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

After a long winter of hibernating, spring has sprung.  With spring comes outside chores.  If shoveling winter snow didn’t give you shoulder pain. Raking, weeding, mowing and planting could.  Frozen shoulder is a real condition and it is painful.  Frozen shoulder syndrome (adhesive capsulitis) is likely caused by overuse or injury that causes inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the capsule that surrounds the normal shoulder joint. 

Any shoulder injury can lead to a frozen shoulder.  Long-term immobility of the shoulder joint can put people at risk to develop a frozen shoulder.  This condition is characterized by night pain and stiffness in your shoulder joint and loss of range of shoulder motion during rotation and abduction (moving the arm forward and backwards). This condition can make sleep very uncomfortable.

Many patients with shoulder pain are told to have surgery, get steroid shots, or take anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, these treatments do not always work to reliably reduce symptoms, particularly in patients with frozen shoulder syndrome (FSS). Only 2-5% of the general population has FSS, but rates are higher among people with Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and stroke; in fact, up to 40% of patients with diabetes suffer from FSS.

Finding an effective way to relieve FSS remains a challenge since many patients say they still experience symptoms for several years after their initial medical treatment which usually consists of corticosteroid and numbing. A recent study suggests that chiropractic treatment may provide better relief for persistent FSS.

The study included 50 patients with FSS between the ages of 40-70 years old. Patients were treated with chiropractic adjustments and within a few weeks on average the majority of patients had substantial improvements in their shoulder adduction (raising the arm to the side).  The median average patient had their pain score drop from a 9 out of 10 to a 2 out of 10, resulting in a median 78% improvement in pain. 

Additionally, researchers  evaluated the patients’ shoulder function by measuring their degree of shoulder adduction.  16 patients had regained completely normal shoulder adduction: 25 had 75-90% improvement in shoulder adduction: and 8 showed a 50-75% improvement..

“The results of this case series are encouraging in that many of these patients’ complaints seemed to improve or resolve within 1 month of presentation, whereas, in general, it is thought that FSS symptoms can persist for 2 years or more,” the researchers wrote.

Although large-scale studies are needed to test these results, the findings suggest that chiropractic adjustment can provide effective relief of FSS.  Thus saving their patient’s the pain and restrictions of having surgery and then long term physical therapy.

If you have noticed a decrease in your shoulder range of motion it is a good idea to have it checked sooner than later.  Chiropractic could get your shoulder back to optimal movement.  Prolonging this condition it only gets worse and more restricted.

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