Osteopaths are well suited for treating pain because they look beyond the immediate anatomy of the shoulder and address causative and maintaining factors behind the condition. Shoulder pain like many of the conditions that affect the upper back has a range of causes and is often associated with repetitive use and poor posture. Many conditions of the shoulder can also be related to sporting injuries and age which may be represented as varying degrees of wear and tear.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder also known as ‘Adhesive Capsulitis’ represents a severe and persistent condition. The shoulder (glenohumeral joint) is surrounded by a stabilising capsule. Inflammation of the shoulder and the capsule can lead to development of thick fibrous tissue, called adhesions. Frozen shoulder occurs when these adhesions begin to limit movement of the shoulder joint, causing it to become painful and stiff, or “frozen”.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder involves a dull, aching pain that is typically worse in the early stages of the condition and occurs in the outer shoulder and upper arm.

  • Pain upon movement, particularly elevating the arm – difficulty dressing, brushing hair etc.
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Pain that increases overtime and may disturb sleep
  • Pain and stiffness that gradually extends to the neck and upper back

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

The exact cause of Frozen Shoulder is not clear. However, the conditions listed below are known to be associated with an increased risk of developing Frozen Shoulder:

  • Injury/inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons or the tendon of the bicep muscle
  • Systemic conditions such as diabetes, diseases of the thyroid gland, arthritic conditions & cardiac disease
  • Prolonged immobilisation following shoulder trauma or surgery
  • Bursitis around the shoulder
  • Treatment and management

There are many causes of pain around your shoulder. Your osteopath can perform an examination to properly diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan that may include:

  • Osteopathic treatment to relieve associated muscle pain and spasm
  • Rehabilitation exercises and stretches to help improve mobility
  • Identification of ergonomic factors to eliminate aggravating activities.
  • Ergonomic and training/movement modifications
  • Reducing inflammation with medications, supplementation or ice/cold therapy
  • Referral for a steroid or PRP injection to reduce inflammation
  • Specialist referral for surgical intervention may be recommended in rare cases.

Prognosis following Frozen Shoulder

The recovery time for Frozen Shoulder to resolve is highly variable and can be a prolonged process. With time you can expect there to be a return to pain free movement.

What to avoid

  • Do not persist with activities that cause pain
  • Do not apply heat or heat creams to the affected area without an examination first
  • Do not self-prescribe massage, stretches and exercises, or medications

This information on symptoms, cause and treatment and management of Frozen Shoulder is provided for you in a fact sheet linked here.