A shoulder injury can sometimes lead to a painful condition called frozen shoulder, where movement is restricted and painful. For an unlucky few, the symptoms of frozen shoulder come on without any noticeable injury. The probable cause: scar tissue that forms in the joint capsule.
Traditional treatment options are relatively limited; you may be prescribed pain medication, encouraged to engage in some moderate exercise or given corticosteroid injections in the affected area. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove scar tissue.
The good news is that after 12 to 18 months, frozen shoulder symptoms may go away on their own. Don't want to wait that long for relief? Some alternative treatments may improve the condition.
Key nerves run from your neck to your shoulder joint and the surrounding tissues, so vertebral subluxations or adjustments to the neck area can often reduce pain and inflammation in an injured shoulder. Once the neck and spine are moving properly, that helps you to move your shoulder more smoothly and improve recovery.
Patients who received chiropractic care in one study saw anywhere from 100 percent improvement (total reduction in symptoms) to 50 percent improvement. Only one person in the study had less than 50 percent improvement over a 28-day period.
It can take a long time for frozen shoulder to properly heal, but regular care from a chiropractor can improve your range of motion, reduce pain and encourage more rapid healing.
A pain management technique called TENS, or Trancutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, can help the symptoms of frozen shoulder. A trained practitioner, often a chiropractor or physical therapist, can administer very small electrical current to the area around the injury. This stimulates the nerves and helps to obstruct the fibers that carry pain signals. Plus, TENS can encourage the release of endorphins, or molecules in the body that help block pain.
Researchers have found that TENS improves the range of motion in patients with frozen shoulder more than applying heat and engaging in specific exercises.
The use of thin needles to stimulate the body's electrical system, or "qi" as it is called in traditional Chinese medicine, can help bring healing to patients with frozen shoulder. There are two different methods that can be used separately or combined; one uses local points on the shoulder and neck area and the other uses a specific point on the leg. In fact, 64 percent of patients treated with stimulation of the latter point felt relief after 10 sessions.
If frozen shoulder is giving you grief, there are alternatives to surgery. Talk to your doctor about exploring chiropractic care and acupuncture for help in treating the pain and limited range of motion associated with frozen shoulder.