What is the Best Treatment for Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a condition that affects your shoulder joint, preventing you from moving your arm smoothly. It’s usually followed by pain and stiffness that may worsen gradually. The improvement comes, in most cases, after one to three years.
The exact factor that’s responsible for the development of a frozen shoulder is unknown, but some underlying conditions can trigger its onset. One of the treatments your doctor will recommend instantly is physical therapy focused on shoulder flexibility, which will help you move your affected shoulder easier and painlessly.
Apart from typical physical therapy, patients often choose acupuncture or dry needling. Both treatments originate from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and they have demonstrated to be efficient in improving pain and helping people who’re dealing with tendonitis, back pain, joint diseases, and more.
The following article will lead you into the definition, symptoms, and causes of frozen shoulder and show you how Eastern medicine treatments can help you recover from such a condition safely and efficiently.
What is Frozen Shoulder?
To provide you with a better understanding of this condition, we’ll start with the anatomy of the shoulder. Namely, the shoulder consists of three bones – upper arm (humerus), shoulder bone (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). The shoulder joint that holds the three bones together is surrounded by a strong connective tissue, which is called the shoulder capsule.
The shoulder capsule plays a significant role in the arm movement and flexibility, and once it becomes thick and tight, you’ll notice a limited motion. Such a condition is often caused by the lack of a liquid called synovial fluid, which is responsible for keeping the joint lubricated and able to move flexibly.
Therefore, any changes in the shoulder capsule may cause pain and limited motion. Although frozen shoulder resolves after some time, it’s recommended to seek medical help as soon as you notice stiffness and pain in the shoulder area.
What are the Typical Frozen Shoulder Symptoms?
The first signs that may indicate a frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness that limit your arm and shoulder motion.
The pain may extend to the shoulder muscles that wrap around the top of your arm, which is why you might feel the achy sensation in your upper arm. The pain often becomes worse at night, which is why you may develop sleep issues.
The degree of the frozen shoulder symptoms will vary through the stages of this condition, which are:
- Freezing stage (6-9 months): This is the beginning phase of frozen shoulder, in which you might develop severe pain in your shoulder any time you move it. The pain often worsens throughout this stage, and you’re limited in how far you can move your shoulder.
- Frozen stage (4-12 months): During this phase, patients often feel certain improvements in terms of pain, but their stiffness usually gets worse. You may find it difficult to move your shoulder and perform everyday activities.
- Thawing stage (6 months-2 years): This is the final stage where you start to feel better, and your motion starts to go back to normal.
Which are the Common Frozen Shoulder Causes?
As mentioned earlier, the exact causes of frozen shoulder are unknown since there’s no apparent connection to arm dominance or occupation. Still, some risk factors may make you more prone to this condition:
- Diabetes: Although the reason is unknown, people with diabetes are more prone to developing a frozen shoulder. Besides, they may need more time to recover and go through the thawing stage.
- Other underlying diseases: People that suffer from chronic diseases are also at risk of frozen shoulder. Such conditions often include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiac disease. Also, patients that are going through the process of a stroke recovery may be affected by adhesive capsulitis.
- Immobilization: If your shoulder has been immobilized due to surgery (mastectomy, for example) or another injury, you may be at risk of developing a frozen shoulder. Therefore, it’s essential to follow your doctor’s advice and start moving your shoulders soon after injury or surgery in order to prevent further complications.
- Age: People between the ages of 40 and 60 are often at risk of frozen shoulder, and it’s believed that it occurs more in women than men.
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What is the Best Frozen Shoulder Treatment?
Due to the lack of sufficient information about frozen shoulder and its causes, healthcare practitioners can’t usually come up with a unanimous treatment solution. Still, there are some common therapy methods prescribed by doctors, and they often include:
- Analgesic and anti-inflammatory medicines
- Massage therapy
- Heat therapy
- Ultrasound wave therapy
- Chiropractic techniques
- Physiotherapy and isometric exercises
However, neither of the mentioned methods has shown significant improvements when it comes to treating frozen shoulder. Therefore, patients decided to try some other ways of improving their shoulder motion, and they are based on alternative and Chinese medicine.
The most common treatment methods that originate from the Traditional Chinese Medicine are acupuncture and dry needling. Thanks to their holistic medical approach, which consists of integrative methods aimed at healing various conditions, they are efficient for improving a person’s overall health.
It’s essential to note that both therapies are entirely safe and well-tolerated and bring no severe side effects that could put your life in jeopardy. The minor inconveniences you might feel after the session include bruising, stiffness, and slight dizziness, which is not something you should be worried about.
They have demonstrated to be efficient in treating frozen shoulder and other conditions that include pain, nerve damages, or severe joint inflammations caused by injuries or other factors.
Acupuncture for Frozen Shoulder
Acupuncture is a method that has been used for almost 5.000 years for treating different disorders. Despite its philosophy based on ancient beliefs, acupuncture has found its purpose in healing many conditions in modern medicine, especially those that include chronic joint pains.
The entire concept of acupuncture rests on the fact that every person has the energy that flows through the meridians in the body. Such energy is often stuck in the meridians, which is the reason why people feel pain, anxiety, and other disorders that affect their overall health.
To release the energy and allow it to flow seamlessly, practitioners use small, thin, sterile, and stainless steel needles to stimulate the specific acupoints that lie near the meridians. That way, patients start to feel better, feel no pain, and they notice the improvements regarding their mental and physical health. So, what’s the connection between acupuncture and frozen shoulder?
Recent studies have shown that acupuncture has helped patients whose frozen shoulder was caused by different factors – underlying diseases, shoulder surgeries, injuries, neurologic and pathologic joint symptoms, and more.
Acupuncture sessions primarily help people alleviate pain and improve their shoulder movement and flexibility. The approximate time that has to pass until a patient notices some improvements is about one month, during which he or she may go through the sessions twice a week.
One of the acupuncture points for a frozen shoulder that’s often triggered to release shoulder pain is Small Intestine 3, found on the side of the hand. Apart from improving the shoulder pain, its stimulation is beneficial for alleviating upper back pain around the scapula.
Other acupoints are stimulated, as well. A certified practitioner will insert the needles in your skin, letting them remain there for 15 to 40 minutes. The needles can be moved or manipulated, but the entire procedure is painless.
The best results are obtained when acupuncture is combined with physiotherapy, analgesics, and Chinese herbs, which are efficient for nurturing the entire organism.
Electroacupuncture and Moxibustion as a Treatment for Frozen Shoulder
By stimulating the acupoints with electric current, a practitioner will make sure you notice reduced pain and improved shoulder joint range of motion.
Electroacupuncture, combined with moxibustion – a therapy that uses and burns leaves of dried mugwort and places them to acupoints on your body – is an efficient way of improving blood circulation and relieving pain, which is mainly beneficial for people who’re dealing with tendonitis and joint disorders.
Dry Needling for Frozen Shoulder
Although it’s often compared to acupuncture, dry needling is a bit different procedure. Its name might sound intimidating, but the truth is that this therapy is quite safe and painless. Unlike acupuncture, which is rooted in Eastern medicine, dry needling is more connected to Western practices. It must be performed by a certified therapist, primarily because needles are in use. Needles used for dry needling are similar to those used for acupuncture. They are thin, and monofilament, and they need to penetrate the skin to treat muscular trigger points, which are responsible for pain and movement impairments.
So, what are trigger points?
A trigger point is described as a local contracture in a muscle fiber that usually disrupts function and limits range of motion, causing pain and local tenderness. The goal of dry needling is to “deactivate” a trigger point and bring improvements to the affected body area.
Dry needling is widely used for treating different kinds of conditions, especially those regarding musculoskeletal and orthopedic issues. It has shown remarkable outcomes in treating frozen shoulder, and it has helped a lot of patients retrieve their ability to move their shoulders and upper arms without pain and noticeable limitations.
Compared to other therapies for frozen shoulder, dry needling brings quicker and more efficient results. Even if it’s convenient as a standalone treatment, it’s always better to combine it with other methods, including Chinese herbs and functional correction exercises.
Active Release Techniques (ART) and Functional Corrective Exercises
Active Release Techniques (ART) is a massage method that successfully treats the problems regarding muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Therefore, it’s effective for chronic inflammations that come as a result of overused muscles.
ART has proven its efficiency in treating conditions that cause a reduced range of motion, pain, loss of strength, numbness, and stiffness – accordingly, it can be used as a frozen shoulder treatment.
During a typical ART treatment, a practitioner uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness, and movement of muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves. Therapists treat abnormal tissues by combining precisely specified tension with unique patient movements (about 500).
It’s vital to know that this type of therapy isn’t designed to be an ongoing treatment, but it’s performed to heal a specific injury or condition. Some patients may feel instant improvements, while others may need 6 to 12 sessions to recover fully.
All the above-mentioned treatments provide better results when they’re combined with functional corrective exercises, which are used to improve a patient’s range of motion and cure the fundamental cause of the existing problem. The combination of frozen shoulder acupuncture, electroacupuncture, dry needling, and functional corrective exercises will bring faster and more long-lasting outcomes.
Makari Wellness: The Best Acupuncture Treatments for Frozen Shoulder
We believe that most of the health disorders are rooted in the potential underlying condition we might not be aware of. Therefore, the treatments you receive should address not only the affected muscle, organ, or nerve, but the entire organism.
Our holistic approach is based on the use of acupuncture, dry needling, Chinese herbs, and other therapies targeted at improving blood circulation, energy flow, and releasing pain caused by frozen shoulder or similar condition. Even 80% of patients have responded well to our treatments so far, and we hope the number increases.
Don’t hesitate to contact us at (888) 871-8889 and book your first acupuncture treatment for frozen shoulder.