What is it?
Frozen shoulder is a health condition involving pain and stiffness in one shoulder. Often you will have difficulty lifting your arm above your head. For example, when you are reaching for something on a higher shelf in front of you. You will feel that your movement is limited from above the horizontal line of your shoulders. You may also experience an intense, sharp ache that stops you from lifting your arm further. Frozen shoulders can last up to 1 – 2 years, which means you’ll lose full function of your arm for quite some time. Before this period, you’ll notice the range of motion of your affected shoulder gradually decreasing.
Who has it?
Interestingly, there are some systemic diseases that can increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder. This is true for people with diabetes, thyroid issues and cardiovascular disease. More commonly though, frozen shoulder is your body’s natural way of coping with a pre-existing or old shoulder injury. If you’ve torn or strained the rotator cuff muscles of your shoulder, that shoulder would have been partially immobilised for a number of weeks or months. This prolonged immobility eventually leads to the “freezing” of your shoulder capsule, which is an adaptation of your body to the prior injury.
Why it happens?
Another term for a frozen shoulder is adhesive capsulitis. This is because the capsule of your shoulder becomes thicker and tightens up around your shoulder joint. Your shoulder joint is the most flexible joint in your body. Because of this, it needs a strong layer of tissue called the capsule to wrap around it and provide stability. Repetitive usage of your arm can cause mild strains that do not cause pain or discomfort. But if the function of your spine is poor, the strain can end up not healing properly. Hence, it is thought that frozen shoulder occurs in such a shoulder to facilitate proper healing during that 1 – 2 years duration.
How it relates to your spinal health:
Having a frozen shoulder significantly changes the way you use your spine every day. Because of the limited arm motions available, you’ll start to lift your torso and entire body from the hip up to compensate. Given that frozen shoulder rarely happens on both sides, it means you’ll be tipping your spine to one side on a daily basis for at least a few months. This creates uneven wear and tear on your spinal bones, discs, ligaments and muscles. The spinal nerves on the opposite side can start to become impinged due to excess mechanical stress.
What to do about it?
Chiropractic care should be the first line of treatment if you have a frozen shoulder. Restoring shoulder mobility via the spine can be a lengthy process, but it is a necessary one. As it takes 1 – 2 years before the frozen shoulder starts to improve, you need to make sure your spine is being adjusted so that it doesn’t wear out from compensating for the shoulder stiffness. Chiropractic adjustments may also be needed for your shoulder joints, elbows and wrists to promote better recovery.