Can Massage Help to Treat Frozen Shoulder

7 min read
Updated: 24.06.2022

Massage has been used for many years to treat Frozen Shoulder even the issue described medically. It’s also used  to relieve tension and stress as well as promote healing.

The human body comprises muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work together to support movement and prevent injury. 

Frozen shoulder symptoms can be treated by hot massage in the Frozen stage (the middle stage) and any targeted massage therapy in its final stage, called Thawing. 

Injuries such as Frozen Shoulder or rotator cuff injuries can cause pain, restricted range of motion, weakness, and other symptoms.

There are different types of massage techniques, each designed with your individual needs in mind. But we are sure about one thing. 

“You can get rid of your Frozen Shoulder effectively through massage.”

What is Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

Healthy vs Inflammated Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is generally caused due to a condition called Impingement Syndrome (or Swimmer’s Shoulder). This syndrome occurs when the acromioclavicular joint gets narrowed due to overuse. 

The narrowing in the AC joint causes the rotator cuff muscles to get hypertonic (causes cells to lose their fluid and shrink) due to the inability to retract fully. 

When a specific area loses its fluid and elasticity, this can open a door for many injuries in your joints. And if the condition goes untreated, it could cause the shoulder to become completely non-functional. 

Impingement syndrome is more common in people who have spent much time performing activities that cause repetitive overhead movement, like baseball pitchers, tennis players, and golfers. 

However, a frozen shoulder can affect anyone at any age and start with only one abnormal movement. There are no known risk factors for this condition, but genetic heritage is critical.

Facts and Stats about Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

– It is also named Adhesive Capsulitis

– Frozen shoulder affects around 5% of the population at some point in their lives,

– The risk increases with age (especially after 40), and women have 4 times more prone to experience Frozen Shoulder,

– Diabetes or any other health issue that affects the circulating system may provoke Frozen Shoulder,

– A patient with a frozen shoulder can experience pain and restricted movement in the shoulder. 

– It is called ‘frozen’ because the shoulder cannot move due to muscle stiffness and inflammation. 

– The affected shoulder is usually the dominant one. When a joint start to lose its fluidity, every single move worsen the problem after that,

– If the cause is severe, the frozen shoulder may need surgery to correct the problem. 

– There is no cure for frozen shoulder, but there are several things you can do to decrease the chance of getting it again,

– On average, when you experience a Frozen Shoulder, you should get ready to see the movement limitation between 1 to 3 years (but can up to 10 years); if it’s neglected,

– If you are experiencing any of the signs of a frozen shoulder, make an appointment with a doctor immediately.

What are the Stages of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

Frozen Shoulder has 3 distinct phases. These are the Freezing, Frozen, and Thawing stages, and there is no set duration for each stage.

3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

The first symptom you can observe when you have a Frozen Shoulder is sudden but irritating pain, especially at night. The pain gradually decreases and leaves its place in mobility problems. 

Movement fluctuates throughout these stages. The loss of movement is much more observable in the Frozen Stage. 

  • Freezing: Sharp and Sudden Pain, Shoulder Movement Optimal
  • Frozen: Less Pain but Lack of Movement 
  • Thawing: Fading Pain and Gaining the Movement Again

How to Perform a Frozen Shoulder Massage by Yourself

If you have a frozen shoulder, a massage can help improve your range of motion and relieve the pain.

You can perform basic stretching and massage treatment by yourself after learning how to implement it at home

However, seeing a massage therapist or physiotherapist is smarter, particularly in the Freezing Stage. Alternatively, you can use one home massage apparatus like massage chair pads, massage guns, or even massage chairs

Before performing a frozen shoulder massage, the most important thing is to warm the area and stretch the muscles slowly. After this:

  • Use medium pressure with your fingers pressing hard into the muscle,
  • Use a slow and rhythmic motion while applying massage to the shoulder,
  • Perform this massage once a day for about 30 minutes,
  • During this time, keep your shoulder in a comfortable position and avoid using your hand to help hold your shoulder in any position.

This way, you can relax the muscle and blood flow, which will help to release the pain and heal your shoulder faster.

What are the Trigger Points for Frozen Shoulder Massage

Trigger Points are the spots on the muscle where the nerve endings are located. Besides, muscle knots, lumps, or other sensitive spots in your shoulder’s surrounding areas can construct pain and cause mobility decline.

You can apply acupressure to help the recovery.

Shoulder Acupressure

When a person with a frozen shoulder has these spots on the muscle, it causes a lot of pain. 

It is crucial to find these spots to relieve the pain and unlock the stiffness in the shoulder muscles. To find the trigger points:

  • Press firmly into the area that feels stiff. You can use one or two fingers depending on the muscle area you are treating.
  • Press into the muscle until you feel the stiffness loosen.
  • Press into the area again to watch if the stiffness changes. If it did, then you have found the right spot.

It is vital to identify the trigger points because they can be treated and become normal again. When you find the trigger points and apply the necessary pressure, the healing process is going to commence.

What is the Difference between Massage and Stretching for Frozen Shoulder

The main difference between stretching and performing a frozen shoulder massage is that the former focuses on increasing the range of motion (ROM) and stretching the muscles. 

Whereas the latter works on releasing the tension in the muscles and joints

Different tissues have different healing times. Therefore, nerves and muscles can recover faster than ligaments, tendons, and cartilages.

But at the same time, you can see the initial responses like pain because the first reactions come from your nerves and muscles. 

Different Levels of Healing Time

Stretching is good for improving ROM, but it does not relieve the pain. The muscles get longer, but the pain does not go away. On the other hand, massage therapy works on the principle of releasing the tension in the muscles and joints. 

Not only does it help to relieve pain, but it also helps to improve ROM, mobility, strength, blood circulation, and coordination.

What Aggravates Frozen Shoulder

Many factors can aggravate frozen shoulders. Some of these factors include,  

  • Improper Sleeping Posture: the joint capsule and muscles need to be stretched while sleeping to relax and restore energy,
  • Repeated Injuries: the more times you hurt your shoulder, the more prone you will be to developing a frozen shoulder, 
  • Repetitive Movements: such as golfing and throwing things while playing baseball can cause your shoulder to become stiff and painful,
  • Poor Fitness: low fitness level will put excess pressure on your joints to cover your muscles, leading to a frozen shoulder.

Can You Use Massage Gun for Frozen Shoulder

Yes, massage is a great way to provide treatment to your frozen shoulder. But, you should not use a regular massage gun. Instead, you should get a water-based one made especially for frozen shoulder treatment. 

A water massage gun works on the same principles as a regular one, except it has water flowing through it. The water helps lubricate the muscles, making it a better choice for frozen shoulder treatment. 

Using a massage device is a great way to get your shoulder back to normal. However, you will have to make sure you use the device specifically for frozen shoulders. 

You should not use a regular massage device on your frozen shoulder. Doing so could cause further damage, but again the stage of the injury matters. 

How to Tell You Need to Seek a Professional Help for Frozen Shoulder

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you must see a medical professional first. 

“It is better to check it out immediately than ignore the problem.”

You should see a doctor if you have been experiencing pain in your shoulder for a long time or if it has worsened while you were sleeping. 

You must also see a doctor if you have seen movement limitations while using your shoulder. 

Any swelling or feeling of inflammation are likewise warning signs to see a doctor immediately. 

In the end, you know your body more than anyone. If you feel anything unusual for more than a couple of hours, 

  • Take a closer look and observe your body’s reaction,
  • If the symptoms worsen or you don’t see any sign of recovery, go to your orthopedist immediately.

Conclusion

Massage can be an integral part of many people’s health, especially those suffering from Frozen Shoulder conditions. 

Massage can help reduce pain, increase ROM, and relax the muscles. It can be used to treat many different conditions and can also be used to help to prevent them. 

Massage can be used to treat Frozen shoulders. Still, be aware that the massage treatment alone will not help cure a frozen shoulder but can help relieve pain and improve mobility.

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