6 Natural Treatments And Exercises To Relieve Frozen Shoulder
The shoulder is one of the most flexible joints in the body but if you don’t use it for a while, it will stop functioning properly.
There are certain cases when people avoid using their shoulders. It can be because of arm injury, bursitis or tendinitis pain, or a feeling of discomfort and stiffness. As a result, adhesions may develop in the shoulder joint, which limits the shoulder’s natural range of motion. This can even happen in the shoulder opposite your favored hand (for instance, the right shoulder in left-handed people) as it doesn’t get enough use.
Frozen shoulder can be a real problem, as people suffering from it often find it very difficult to perform simple daily tasks, such as putting on the clothes or brushing the teeth.
If you think you might suffer from this condition, keep on reading to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments that will help you relieve pain and restore normal range of motion.
What Is Frozen Shoulder?
Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder joint is stiff with pain and its range of motion is limited.
Frozen shoulder symptoms usually develop slowly in 3 stages:
- Freezing stage, when the shoulder is stiff and every movement results in pain, the pain usually being worse during the night.
- Frozen stage, when the pain is somewhat reduced but the stiffness increases and further inhibits the shoulder movement.
- Thawing stage, when the stiffness begins to improve and the range of motion slowly returns to normal.
The most common reason for frozen shoulder is underuse, though studies suggest that there might be other factors that bring about the condition:
- Gender and age. Women and people over 40 are more likely to suffer from frozen shoulder.
- Disease. Certain diseases also increase the risk of developing frozen shoulder. These diseases are heart disease, Parkinson’s, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, and diabetes.
- Injury. Minor injuries that result in impaired movement can lead to the formation of adhesions in the shoulder. If the shoulder is underused for 3-4 weeks, these adhesions can become severe and significantly restrict the shoulder movement.
Painkillers like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help alleviate pain and inflammation, and are available over the counter and by prescription. But if used for a long time, these drugs can cause serious health problems, including:
- bleeding and ulcers in the stomach, colon, and/or the small
- increased blood pressure
- increased risk of stroke or heart attack.
If you ignore frozen shoulder, you could end up with a permanent shoulder disability. You need to act immediately in order to restore the shoulder’s natural range of motion.
There are several natural treatment options and exercises that can reduce your dependence on painkillers, alleviate the pain, and restore normal range of motion.
6 Treatments For Frozen Shoulder
The following natural treatments aim to ease stiffness, restore normal range of motion, and alleviate pain. Bear in mind that full recovery may take up to two years, depending on the severity of your condition, but these treatments will help you reduce the symptoms.
Acupuncture is a holistic technique that originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine, where specific points on the body are stimulated by inserting thin needles into the skin. It is not painful and continued sessions might offer relief.
The number of sessions depends on the severity of your condition. In general, six to ten sessions should be enough, but in some cases, even one treatment can help if the symptoms aren’t too severe. Acupuncture for frozen shoulder usually costs between $75-$160.
Osteopathy is a natural treatment which focuses on the spine, muscles, and joints. Besides helping alleviate inflammatory pain in the muscles and joints, osteopathic adjustments can also help you with other issues such as indigestion and headaches. Osteopathy doesn’t use any drugs and focuses on the whole body rather than only the affected area.
Osteopathic adjustment treatments include resistance exercises, applying pressure, stretching, etc.
3. Proper Nutrition
Consuming certain foods can result in inflammation in many parts of the body, including the shoulders. These foods include:
- sugary drinks
- processed meats
- white pasta
- white bread
- processed snack foods (such as crackers and chips)
- vegetable oil
- soybean oil
- trans fats
However, removing these foods from your diet might not be enough to help with frozen shoulder. Basing your nutrition on anti-inflammatory foods should help reduce shoulder stiffness and lower the pain. Here are the best foods to focus on:
- fruits and vegetables
- omega-3 enriched foods (like fish and walnuts)
- lean protein (like chicken and turkey)
In some cases, getting extra support from supplements may be also useful. The following six supplements have been proven to help with inflammation:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Fish oil
5. Heat or Cold Therapy
Depending on which one works better for you, try heat or cold therapy.
Applying a heating pad or hot compress for about 15 minutes several times a day should be enough to alleviate the pain. A 15-minute hot shower can also help relax the shoulder muscles. If you prefer cold therapy, apply an ice pack for 15 minutes several times a day.
Heat/cold therapy is especially important before doing any exercises.
In order to make sure you’re doing the following exercises properly, we recommend working with a physical therapist. The key is to be consistent; don’t be discouraged if you find the exercises difficult at first. Start with doing a little, then, as the range of motion increases, you’ll be able to do more.
Here are a few exercise examples you can do at home:
- Pendulum stretch
- Towel stretch
- Armpit stretch
- Cross-body reach
- Finger walk
- Inward rotation
- Outward rotation
Early diagnosis and treatment might help prevent long-term pain and stiffness in your shoulder joint. See your health care practitioner if you think you have frozen shoulder or if you have persistent pain in the shoulder that limits your range of motion.
Vicky Berman is a food and lifestyle blogger where she specializes in healthy living and health cooking. She is also a world traveler and has visited over 60 countries.