by Dr. Liat Engel

frozen shoulder girlHave you or someone that you care about been struggling to recover from a persistent shoulder pain or limitation of shoulder mobility that just doesn’t seem to be resolving? This may be a case of “frozen shoulder” or also known as “adhesive capsulitis.” This condition affects 2-5% of the general population and is most commonly seen in women over age 40 or women who are post-menopausal; however men may also be susceptible. The reason we have chosen to shed some light on this topic through our newsletter is because it is a very frustrating and painful condition that often goes undiagnosed and can last for years before it spontaneously self-resolves. This condition greatly impacts and reduces an individual’s quality of life. The good news is that if recognized and treated early on, progression of Frozen Shoulder may very well be prevented through the application of the various alternative therapeutic modalities naturopathic and acupuncture medicines has to offer.

Causes and risk factors commonly associated with the development of Frozen Shoulder:

  • Reduced mobility – due to stroke; a slow recovery period following surgery; arm fracture; injury of the muscles or tendons involving the joint, or of the joint itself.
  • Systemic diseases – Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)/underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism); cardiovascular disease; diabetes; tuberculosis; Parkinson’s disease.

In the development of Frozen Shoulder there are three stages that can span over the course of many months and continue to progress for several years.

Stage 1: PAINFUL Phase– any movement of your shoulder hurts and your range of motion is starting to become limited – Here a great deal of inflammation swells within and around the joint capsule. Some of these signs and symptoms are heat, swelling, soreness and pain. Often times the pain is worse at night, leading to disruption of sleep patterns.

Stage 2: FROZEN Phase – as your range of motion is limited even further, your shoulder feels very stiff although the pain may be reduced – At this point all of the remnant inflammatory elements adhere and harden to form a fibrous mesh network. This causes the capsule of connective tissue that encases the bones, ligaments and tendons of your shoulder joint to become thickened and tightened around the joint.

Stage 3: THAWING Phase – you notice a slow improvement in the range of motion of your shoulder as the joint capsule adhesions break down – During this final stage the adhesions that were firmly bound begin to deteriorate and the body is able to slowly digest away the fibrosities around the joint, leading to a gradual return of your ability to fully move your shoulder again.

The ideal time for treatment to begin is during the PAINFUL Phase when further progression into the actual freezing of the joint capsule can be prevented. However, at any stage, proper therapy will assist in pain reduction, increase range of motion and ultimately speed up recovery from the condition.  Modalities that we offer here at Alpine Integrated Medicine that can be applied to treat frozen shoulder are acupuncture, physical therapy and rehabilitation exercise guidance, ultrasound heat therapy, nutrient and IV therapy, homeopathy, craniosacral and trigger point injection therapy. Alongside these specific modalities, applying the general principles and philosophies of Naturopathic and Acupuncture medicines will genuinely aim to restore the body’s vitality, ability to self-correct and heal from within. Delving into this mindset of cure will work to recognize imbalances within the system as a whole; rebalancing and correcting the body’s hormonal and vascular systems which are often at the root of the underlying cause for such a condition.

So if you or anyone that you know is suffering from Frozen Shoulder, please call today to schedule an appointment so that a professional assessment can be made. Remember, the sooner treatment may begin the sooner recovery is reached and the limitations Frozen Shoulder imposes on the normal activities of daily life can be resolved.