A lovely new patient named Kim came in complaining of an achy, sore shoulder that had her worried and frustrated.
“I guess it’s been coming on for months but it’s been off and on so I haven’t done much about it… a few stretches when it’s bugging me but that’s about it. Now it’s starting to really drive me nuts. The pain is going down my arm and sometimes even to my elbow. Yesterday I couldn’t chop an onion and it hurt to put my phone in my back pocket! I’m started to feel useless.“
Kim is 47, loves to run, and has a desk job. She has no history of injury to her shoulder, but she does use that arm to mouse, scroll and chop. Kim knows after years of 40 hour work weeks sitting at a desk that her posture is suffering; her neck and shoulders always feel tense but she assumes that comes with the territory. She’s even beginning to worry about getting that “Quasimodo hump”, however, right now her number one concern is getting her arm and shoulder to feel better.
Kim’s shoulder mobility is becoming more and more limited. Lately, she’s having trouble doing up her bra and just yesterday it even hurt to put her phone in her back pocket… that’s what prompted her to call us. It turns out it’s a good thing she did because Kim is developing a frozen shoulder: Yikes!
What causes frozen shoulder?
Most cases of frozen shoulder have no single “known cause”. For less than 20% of cases there’s been a trauma to the shoulder that causes it to be immobilized. However, the majority of people complain it just seemed to creep up on them, and they aren’t sure how it got so bad.
That being said, clearly there’s a reason that frozen shoulder is becoming so much more common. Truthfully, joints don’t freeze or lock up for no reason. The main culprit is the poor posture we find ourselves stuck in for hours on end. Additionally, the majority of people with a frozen shoulder also present with rounded shoulders, forward head posture, and hours of sitting in front of a computer.
The shoulder is a complex and unstable joint designed for maximum range of motion. Shoulder mobility is seriously affected when your shoulder/neck/upper back position is hanging too far forward causing your muscles and soft tissues to react as they attempt to stabilize the joint. This causes the back of the shoulder to become strained and sore as it holds the load of the forward posture (you may feel like you have a toothache behind your shoulder blade); while the front of the shoulder and upper arm begins to tighten and ache.
Many people sense this starting to happen but are so busy with life, they just carry on. Their shoulder aches a bit at times but they ignore it or take an ibuprofen and assume it’s ok.
If you leave it long enough, the tense muscles and soft tissues start to change until they resemble scar tissue, which results in changes to the shoulder capsule called “adhesive capsulitis”. AKA: a frozen shoulder.
How do I know if I’m beginning to suffer from a frozen shoulder?
Try these 2 simple tests:
1. Raise your arms to the side as high as they can go without pain. Do you have to hike your shoulder up towards your ear on one side to get your arm up? Is one side more limited than the other?
2. See if you can put your forearm and the back of your hand on the small of your back. Can you stay in good posture to do so or do you need to slouch? Does this cause pain and tension in the front of your shoulder?
If you failed either of these tests please take action quickly. After all, it’s much easier to heal a shoulder that’s in the process of freezing; once its’ fully frozen it’s a much more painful process.
Simple steps to heal frozen shoulder as quickly as possible:
- Contact us! Our chiropractors need to check and correct your neck, upper back, rib and shoulder alignment in order for you to begin to heal quickly. If you skip this step and try to just “stretch it better” or take anti-inflammatories and injections for the pain, your symptoms will last anywhere form 3 months to 3 years and will likely return or show up in the other shoulder.
- Learn how to safely correct your posture. See the tips below for some initial pointers. (Learning how to sit may seem unrelated but starting with your weight distributed properly is the key to proper posture.) Getting stuck in a slouched posture will exacerbate the misalignments, tension and pain. This is important at work, in the kitchen and even when just watching Netflix.
Watch this video to learn how to properly sit!
- Learn and practice the correct stretches and exercises:
Frozen Shoulder Stretch
- Get a massage! Massage can help the tense muscles let go, alleviating pain and making it easier for you to stretch.