The clue’s in the name: movement at the shoulder becomes very stiff, restricted and painful, with the shoulder effectively freezing up. Ordinary movements like reaching into your back pocket, or doing up your bra can become impossible. In extreme cases, the person suffering from frozen shoulder may not be able to move their arm at the shoulder at all.
A flexible capsule lines the shoulder joint (where the bone of the upper arm meets the shoulder). With frozen shoulder, or to give it is correct medical term ‘adhesive capsulitis’, the capsule becomes progressively more stiff instead of flexible. As the stiffness sets in, it becomes increasingly difficult, and painful, to move the arm.
In all, frozen shoulder can typically last up to 30 months.
There are 3 recognised phases to the condition:
1. The freezing phase
This is the most painful part – often really painful. Movement of the arm in certain directions causes pain in the shoulder, which seems to get worse at night. Lying on the affected arm becomes difficult if not impossible, and so may disrupt your sleep.
Typically the freezing phase lasts 2-9 months.
2. The frozen phase
During the frozen phase, movement of the arm in certain directions won’t be possible (or if it is possible, it won’t go very far). Rotating the arms outwards is often the most difficult, though all arm movement may be affected. The good news is that the pain is likely to go away, or at least subside dramatically.
The frozen phase usually lasts 4-12 months.
3. The thawing phase
Eventually, the problem will probably sort itself out and full range of movement will likely return, pain-free. The thawing can be gradual though and it could be a long time until full movement is restored.
The thawing phase can take between 1 and 4 years until nearly-normal movement is returned.
There are different theories about what causes frozen shoulder, though people with previous shoulder injuries and those with diabetes do seem to be more at risk. The frozen shoulder is most often the non-dominant side (e.g. the left shoulder for right-handed people).
The condition affects around 3% of the population, usually aged 40-65 (in Japan it's called "fifties shoulder"). Women are affected more than men.
Traditional approaches to frozen shoulder either try to relieve the pain (for example using steroid injections) or attempt to force an improvement in the shoulder's range of movement. This last method actually seems to make things considerably worse!
The Niel-Asher Technique® is a physical therapy that follows a strict sequenced protocol of treatment which addresses the inflammation which causes the problems. It's a technique used by osteopaths and remedial massage therapists that requires specific training.
The results of the Niel-Asher Technique® on frozen shoulder can be dramatic and fast. The treatment is totally natural and never forces the arm or shoulder. During a clinical trial at Addenbrookes Hospital patients undergoing NAT reported an 80% decrease in pain and a 53% increase in range of movement over 9 weeks.
As a rule, 85% of frozen shoulder cases can be treated in less than 8-10 treatment sessions of the Neil Asher Technique.
For exercises that you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of frozen shoulder, have a look at this blog post.
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