Frozen Shoulder

Massage therapy treatment is often used to reduce frozen shoulder symptoms.  Frozen shoulder refers to a set of symptoms, such as pain and loss of function, in the shoulder. The term is often used interchangeably with adhesive capsulitis. The difference between the two is that adhesive capsulitis involves a capsular adhesion due to the existence of a pathology, and frozen shoulder has no capsular involvement.

Frozen shoulder is marked by the onset of subtle, gradual symptoms, followed by pain and loss of function. There are three phases:

Phase 1: beginning of pain, usually experienced at night; no significant loss of motion; lasts 2-9 months

Phase 2: range of motion is limited; pain persists, but is milder than stage 1; lasts 4-12 months

Phase 3: reduction of pain; a gradual increase in range of motion; lasts 12-24 months

The decrease in range of motion can be experienced in everyday activities, such as washing or brushing hair and reaching for a seatbelt. Frozen shoulder is divided into two categories: primary frozen shoulder, which is idiopathic (unknown origin), and secondary frozen shoulder, which results from trauma, surgery, or inflammatory disease. In addition, women are more affected than men, it usually affects those between the ages of 40 and 70, and diabetics and women experiencing hormonal changes are more susceptible.

Massage is used to address soft tissue restrictions. Likewise, it can help to reduce the perception of pain, improve range of motion, and decrease anxiety and breathing restrictions caused by pain. Massage works in conjunction with a physical therapist or primary care doctor. Be sure to tell your massage therapist if you are receiving corticosteroid injections.

Return to Conditions Treated

Resources:

Versagi, Charlotte M. Step-by-Step Massage Therapy Protocols for Common Conditions. Philadelphia: Lippencott Williams & Wilkins, 2012

Lowe, Whitney. Orthopedic Assessment in Massage Therapy. Sisters: Daviau Scott, 2006