- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
The Frozen Shoulder Fix: How to Heal
Steps Toward Recovery
In my first article on frozen shoulder, I talked about how the mindset, or spiritual misalignment could be a cause of the problem. I also talked about how a bunion can affect a shoulder problem, and freeze or lock your shoulder down. Additionally, I talked about how being a writer, or just using a computer a lot can cause frozen shoulder. If you haven't already, make sure you read that article.
In my second article on this topic, I talked a lot more about the causes of frozen shoulder. I was more body specific and named names - culprit muscles that tend to develop this issue. I talked a lot more about the fact that this is a chronic condition, and gave reasons why it becomes chronic. This is also an article that, if you haven't read it already, it is a must see.
When I left off in that article, I was talking about the tendons and how the problem with frozen shoulder really develops there. So in this article I want to continue from that point, and explain a bit more about the body, and the muscles and tendons. I'd also like to explain a few things that can exacerbate or make the condition worse, as well as what you need to do to heal and recover from the condition.
Cause For Concern
First let me say that as a massage therapist, to have had this condition 3 times already is not necessarily a good sign. In my profession, it's cause for some concern considering the fact that I have to use my hands and my arms quite a bit in my job. So for me, I have to learn how to be preventive with this condition; so that my body can last a long time; and I can continue doing massage work and healing people. And as a writer, once again, my pain is your gain.
The first thing you need to recognize is that, as I mentioned in at least one other article, the body records everything that happens to you. Wikipedia has a really good article on the fight or flight syndrome in the nervous system, and how it functions, so I'll let you read about it there.
However, one thing the article did mention that I want to stress; is that during the flight or flight syndrome, there is great muscular exertion that's occurs. It doesn't matter which one you choose. Whether it be fight or flight, your body goes into "protect me" mode. This occurs due to some outside or outward stressor that you have come up against. The external stressor will cause internal conflict, and your body kicks into fight or flight mode.
Meanwhile, your cells are recording it all. So while your muscles are all tensing up because you sense danger, you're nervous system is making the call as to whether not you're going to go into fight or flight mode. Your body's mini recorders are the cells and they are recording the stress and storing it. And where are the cells storing this information? In your tissues. Tendons and muscles are made of tissues, and that's where your stress is stored.
The tendons, being the heavy pullers and the glue that holds the muscle to the bone stores most of the records of your life's stressors. When the tendons get overloaded; it starts to filter its way into the muscle belly itself. It is at this point that you begin to feel it, because knots are now beginning to form in the belly of the muscle, and your ability to move is starting to be much more restricted. The reason this does not happen with the ligaments is because the ligaments are the glue that attaches bone the bone.
Most people attempt to power on through the pain, and continue working or doing whatever it is that is causing or exacerbating the pain condition. This is how a repetitive motion injury gets chronic. In my case it'd been years of wear and tear from repetitive motion, stressors, and neglect that has finally caught up to me. It's not like I didn't know I had pain and a problem building. It's not like I wanted to ignore it. I wanted help. I wanted relief.
No Pain, No Gain?
And I know quite a few massage therapists I could possibly have an exchange with. However, there's the time issue, scheduling conflicts, and the other thing is - I just don't like to be a burden. I don't like to bother people or impose upon them, especially if I don't feel that really close connection. I have only a handful of people that I feel comfortable enough with, to ask to do an exchange with me.
One good friend - a fellow massage therapist that I used to go to every once in a while; is a really sweet person. I love her to pieces, but there was always a problem - the same problem every time she works on me. When she massages me, she hurts me. She doesn't seem to notice that I am in pain; despite the fact that my toes are curling, my legs are flexing and coming up off the table; and I'm arching my back and saying, "Ow, ow, ow!" When I say, "You're hurting me," she gets offended, or says, "No pain, no gain."
She likes heavy pressure, particularly on her legs. I, on the other hand can't take heavy pressure, especially on my legs; because I have a circulatory issue. Most therapist's style of massage is based upon what they like or prefer themselves. Thus, massages from her are never relaxing for me. I'm at the point now, where I just don't call her because I know all I'm going to get is pain.
I have one other really good friend that's been a massage therapist for 20 years. She is a myofascial pain specialist, and I happen to need myofascial release. When she's available, she usually does a myofascial unwinding on me, which is very effective. The issue is scheduling a time that is conducive with her schedule. My last massage partner, a friend who lived not even a block away from me; suddenly moved back to Lakeland without telling anyone. So when I called her to ask for a massage exchange that's when I found out.
Too Little, Too Late
So finally, 2 weeks ago in desperation I asked the other massage therapist at the chiropractic office where I work. I had asked her previously, and she was never unwilling - just very busy. However, she was feeling the need for a massage too. She said that she couldn't do it that following weekend but the weekend after. I never made it to the weekend after. On the Monday of the following weekend, I started having very sharp pain. I had waited too long to get help. It was too late. By Wednesday, the symptoms were really blown up.
So Rule #1 is: Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Seek out a licensed massage therapist, acupuncturist, or chiropractor; or other natural care practitioner; who's knowledge and skills you respect. Pay attention when they advise you about body mechanics, and alignment issues that maybe exacerbating your condition.
Remember that most employers fail to setup office space with ergonomics or proper body mechanics in mind. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you, to make minor adjustments as needed that are going to help to align your body a bit better; removing one source of stress.
Rule #2 is: Pay attention to your pain.
Whether it's your first time having this problem, or you're a third timer like me; you need to pay close attention to your pain. Paying attention is the only way that you can figure out what's causing this problem. Just know that a chronic problem like frozen shoulder, is going to be a lifestyle issue. You will need to pay attention to your habits, activities, and other things that you do on a regular basis in your life; in order to find the source of the stressors that are causing this problem.
Additionally you will need to pay attention to the type of treatment you get, or that is recommended; especially therapeutic treatments. Ultimately, you are responsible for your health; therefore you are responsible for your recovery. Don't sit back and rely strictly on the practitioners to heal you.
It is your habits and lifestyle that got you into this mess. Whether it was from overwork and stress, lack of proper rest and relaxation, lack of proper activities and exercise, lack of proper diet and nutrition, improper body mechanics and alignment, or ongoing repetitive motion activities; the point is that any combination of these will induce this kind of a problem. So it is up to you to make the necessary lifestyle changes as an act of preventative medicine.
This is what happens when you take care of everyone else, but yourself. And don't think for a minute that I'm just preaching to the choir. This entire conversation is one that I'm actually having with myself. I just allowed you to listen in on it.
I think that we've pretty much summed up the causes of this kind of condition. So now, we need to move on to what exacerbates it or makes it worse. We need to look at what treatment works and what treatment doesn't. Considering that this is the third time I've had this issue; I think I've had enough experience to be able to tell you what works and what doesn't.
Rule #3: R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Understand that this condition is not just involving muscle spasms. you aren't just dealing with simply over contracted muscles that have become a chronic condition due to long term abuse. This problem involves the monster - inflammation.
I've done some research on this and some in the medical profession, think that this is an arthritic condition, but I don't agree. However, even if it was an arthritic condition you would still be applying ice to the problem. I'm also aware that many people say that an arthritic condition reacts to the cold or cold weather; so they would think that you should apply heat. However, I still say you would apply ice, because it's a different kind of cold.
It's not the same thing as cold weather. You don't apply heat to an inflammatory situation. That would be tantamount to lighting a match in a fireworks factory. It's the same with frozen shoulder. It's not called frozen shoulder because it's cold. It's called frozen shoulder because of your inability to move. Your muscles are frozen in place so to speak.
There's no other condition I can think of, that can not only lock up muscles and inhibit movement; but also accomplishes this by means of swelling and excruciating pain - other than inflammation. So when you got an inflammation situation going on, you don't need to bring the heat. Inflammation's already got that covered. It's bringing not just heat, but red hot fire. Your job is to cool things down so that those exhausted muscles can rest. This leads us to one of the most important rules.
Rule #4 is: Don't shake things up.
The last time I had this condition in my right arm; I did something really stupid that brought more trauma to the situation. You see, I thought the problem was muscular knots (adhesions) or muscle spasms. I didn't realize it was a lot more than that. Now for muscle spasm, heat would be applied. So that's what I did; but, being the test monkey for you all that I am, I had to take it 1 step further. I decided to sooth it with my professional, chiropractic type massager.
It's actually an older model that most chiropractors no longer use. I got my heating pad, laid down on my bed, and sort of wrapped it around my arm. Then I put the massager on the outside of it; with the handles facing the wall; and stuffed a pillow in between the handles and the wall to keep the massager in place.
I turned it on and it felt really good for quite some time. The heat felt great, and I thought I was doing something to help my arm and help release this condition. The massager was sort of vibrating the heat into my arm. My purpose in this whole setup was so that the heat would get down to the deeper set of muscles to help them get released. The problem was, not only was this completely the wrong technique, but what was worse was, I fell asleep like this.
I shouldn't have been using heat because this is an inflammatory condition. Furthermore I didn't know at that time that vibration irritates inflammation. Add to that the length of time this setup was on my arm, pushing in the heat and the vibration while I slept. It should be no surprise to any of you that I burned myself. In hindsight, as laughable as this situation may now seem; I still have a coil burn mark from the heating pad, in my right arm.
This is no reflection upon how I treat my clients. Just remember that when you're in pain, you're not thinking quite as clearly as you would be if you weren't in pain. Aside from that, my readers as well of my clients get the benefit of the knowledge I've gained from the mistakes I've made treating my own pain issues.
Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid
Yet even with that tramatic experience; I still did not remember this time, not to use the massager. Both the doctor and I, respectively, used one for 1-2 minutes at different times on last Wednesday. By Thursday my arm and shoulder was burning up like a 3 alarm fire and I was screaming and crying in pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest; I was at at 20 last Thursday night, and couldn't sleep.
Even after several hours with an ice pack applied, I was still at a 15 on the scale. In all honesty, I can't blame the doctor for this because I couldn't even remember that vibration is not good for this condition. Any doctor or natural care practitioner can only assess your condition and treat it based on what you tell them. If you don't tell them everything, then it can turn into a hit or miss situation, because they don't have all the facts and factors of your pain. I hadn't actually, fully realized all of this myself until this third incident. Plus, we were both thinking muscle spasm, not inflammation.
The final conviction on the vibration issue came this past Monday. I have wanted to use the e-stim machine in our office; as I was already making trips to the main office to use the one there; but it was not available. So the doctor told me to use the waterbed.The waterbed is a heat based water massage with jets and propulsion. I don't think I was fully on it 5 minutes before the sharp pain started shooting up my arm. Having a shoulder that could not function did not make it easy for me to get out that waterbed. I had to call the doctor to help me get up out that bed.
Conclusion On Recovery Methods
Thus, my conclusion. Never use any sort of therapeutic tools or equipment what causes vibration. It will set off a display of fireworks that you do not want to experience. Rest and ice where are the best things you can do for this condition. If you have access, an electrical stimulating machine or e-stim, also known as a tens unit; is a fantastic way to release the muscles, and really sooths away the pain. It contracts and releases the muscles via an electrical current. Thus far, this has been the most helpful thing. Especially, because you can put an ice pack over the electrical stimulating pads attached to your arm and shoulder.
Lastly, on your road to recovery; you need to start to slowly strengthen the arm and build the muscles back up, so that they are usable again. One way to accomplish this is opening closing your fist. You may need to clench your fist as a way of powering through the pain when trying to move. The fact of the matter is, there's not a move that you can make that does not involve your shoulder.
It's going to cause you pain with the slightest movement. Clenching and unclenching your fist not only helps you to push past the pain when you have to move; but it also helps to start building muscle again through flexion. It's not a cake walk, but it does help. Another thing is; despite the fact that I'm not a proponent of chemical medicines; if your pain level gets out of control, at the very least go get yourself some over the counter ibuprofen. It is specifically for inflammation and pain relief.
Finally, there's one more thing you can do to help strengthen the arm once the inflammation has decreased. Get a bouncy ball. This ball is the type of ball used for handball or racquetball courts. It is a fairly thick, strong, rubber ball that you can use to squeeze your way back into strength and mobility in the affected arm. I hope this information was helpful to you. At the very least, I've written down a reminder to myself of preventative and recovery methods to deal with this condition.