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Frozen Shoulder Massage

Frozen Shoulder Massage: How to Release a Frozen Shoulder

Question:

The strangest thing happened to me a few weeks ago. When I woke up, I felt pretty intense pain in my shoulder, and I couldn’t really move my arm. At first I thought I must have just slept in a weird position, but the pain continued and got worse through the week, so I finally went to see my doctor. She said I have a condition commonly known as “frozen shoulder,” and basically told me to just take anti-inflammatories for pain when necessary and let it go – that it would get better on its own. Is there a massage that could help release my frozen shoulder so I can go back to normal activities more quickly?

Answer:

Frozen shoulder is relatively common, although not much is really understood about it. People most commonly affected are women between the ages of 40 and 60, and yes, it will eventually resolve itself – although that could take up to three years in extreme cases.[1] In the meantime, you can benefit from a comprehensive treatment regimen that incorporates a number of strategies, including acupuncture and physical therapy alongside massage therapy.[2]

Historically, doctors commonly believed that frozen shoulder would get better on its own without treatment. However, more recent studies have shown this is generally not the case.[3] While the condition does resolve itself for some patients, this may take more time than you’re willing to allow.

The most effective massage for frozen shoulder involves massaging the arm and shoulder while passively moving your arm through a wide range of motion to gently stretch the shoulder and surrounding muscles.[4] However, a word of caution: at least one study has shown that massage is not particularly effective to address frozen shoulder, and may even reduce the likelihood of a favorable outcome.[5] If you’re interested in massage, talk it over with any other healthcare professionals who are working on your shoulder. They can let you know if it’s likely to benefit you.

To be truly effective, schedule massages at least weekly for a couple of months. Communicate clearly with your massage therapist regarding your condition, and any changes you’ve noticed since your last session. It may be beneficial for you to find a massage therapist who has experience working on clients with frozen shoulder. Rebooking with the same therapist can also help ensure continuity of treatment, although of course you should feel free to use another therapist if the one you used previously isn’t available when you need them.

References:

[1] American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Frozen Shoulder,” https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/frozen-shoulder/

[2] Richard Lebert RMT: “Massage Therapy for Frozen Shoulder,” http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/massage-therapy-for-frozen-shoulder

[3] Physiotherapy: “Natural History of Frozen Shoulder: Fact or Fiction? A Systematic Review,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27641499

[4] Richard Lebert RMT: “Massage Therapy for Frozen Shoulder,” http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/massage-therapy-for-frozen-shoulder

[5] Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal: “Treatment of Adhesive Capsulitis: A Review,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3666515/

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