Are you dealing with the stiff and painful condition known as frozen shoulder? Up to 5% of people will encounter this condition at some point in their lives. And if you’ve ever had it, you know that it can make parts of your daily routine — such as reaching up to tall cabinets or washing your hair — feel nearly impossible.
Because this condition lasts for such a long time, many people wonder if a soothing massage can help them feel better. But what kind of health benefits can it offer? Can massage therapy help with frozen shoulder?
Here’s what you should know about massage and frozen shoulder, including the potential benefits, research, and tips to know before starting.
Understanding Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder (aka adhesive capsulitis) occurs when the connective tissue around your shoulder joint (or glenohumeral joint) becomes painful and stiff.
It isn’t always easy to pinpoint a single reason why a frozen shoulder develops. But sometimes, it’s more clearly related to a disease, previous injury, surgery, or a long period of little arm movement.
This condition can happen to a wide range of people, but those between the ages of 40 and 70 — and especially women — will deal with it most often. It’s also been linked to specific diseases, such as thyroid issues and diabetes.
The Recovery Process Takes Time
When you have frozen shoulder, you can expect to move through three different stages:
- Freezing: This is when you’ll start noticing increased pain and less mobility. It can last anywhere from six weeks up to several months.
- Frozen: This stage is when you might find that going about your daily life becomes extra challenging. Your pain may subside a bit, but your shoulder will really start to feel “frozen” here.
- Thawing: This is when things will start turning around. Your shoulder will slowly start to loosen up, and you’ll notice that movement becomes easier as time goes on.
The thawing stage can last anywhere from several months to two years. But with proper treatment and patience, most people reach a full recovery.
And the good news is that according to the Mayo Clinic, frozen shoulder rarely happens twice in the same side — so once you recover, you can often count on things staying on the upswing.
Finding Ways to Support Healing
Having frozen shoulder means you’ll be in for a long-term healing journey. To help you along the way, your doctor might recommend treatments such as:
- Pain medicine
- Physical therapy that includes flexibility and range of motion exercises
- Surgery (in rare cases)
Along with your prescribed treatments, you can also work with your doctor to find other complementary therapies to boost your quality of life. And this is where massage therapy could make its way into your routine.
Can Massage Therapy Help with Frozen Shoulder?
When it comes to issues like frozen shoulder, many people wonder if massage is a viable remedy for easing pain and reducing stiffness.
To answer that: It may not cure or heal frozen shoulder, but it can bring you comfort and help you support your muscle and joint health as you recover.
One 2010 review looking at the research for frozen shoulder found that certain manual techniques — in specific, one called the Cyriax approach — may help with pain and range of motion. In the study where this technique was used, it involved a blend of deep cross friction massage and mobility exercises.
The review also noted that myofascial trigger point massage might offer some benefits, especially if the muscles around the shoulder are holding any concentrated points of tension.
Are There Any Risks?
As with anything that involves your health, there can be risks of trying massage when you have frozen shoulder. For instance, if massage is done improperly, you run the risk of hurting your muscles and soft tissue or worsening your condition.
The good news is that once you get your diagnosis, your physician can help you get in touch with a physical therapist. And this is the perfect person to ask about self-massage methods to use at home.
A physical therapist can go over massage techniques with you step-by-step and in person, giving you the tools and confidence you need to make them a part of your routine.
What Else Can Help Frozen Shoulder at Home?
- Specific stretches to help you support your range of motion, such as the pendulum stretch, towel stretch, and cross-body reach
- Strengthening exercises to support your joint as your shoulder begins to loosen up
- Ice packs/cold therapy to increase your comfort level and reduce pain
The Bottom Line on Massage and Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder is a troublesome condition that can put a damper on your life. Fortunately, massage therapy is one natural tool that can help you soothe discomfort and feel better each day.
Before you get started with massage at home, be sure to get in touch with your physician for their advice and recommendations.
Once you’ve got the green light to get started, it may also be worth asking your doctor about therapeutic massage tools like the MedMassager MMB05. This device uses oscillating technology to mimic the motions of a massage therapist’s hands to bring you daily relief.
Learn more about the many ways to use the MedMassager here. Or, view MedMassager’s full range of healing home devices today.