RELIEVING FROZEN SHOULDER
A female patient in her late 60’s visited my office recently. The patient has already been diagnosed as having adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, also known as Frozen Shoulder, and has been prescribed with pain reliever and two sessions of injections; but the pain would not get relieved after three months, thus leading her to this clinic.
The patient was most curious as to why she has pain although she rarely uses her shoulders and has never injured it before. The patient has worked in the dry cleaners for over thirty years and had no problem until now. She complained of injustice when the pain started abruptly. There are many reasons behind Frozen shoulder, from not having a particular root cause, to damage of the shoulder inside out.
By the time a person reaches their fifty’s, he must have done repetitive work at a particular field, and pick up his own lifestyle, sleeping habits, workout patterns, etc.; I explained to her that these are factors that can contribute to shoulder pain. Even though he may not use your shoulder much, retaining posture where he uses his hand while abducting the elbow away from the body can overload the muscles in the rotator cuff. When I explained that this is the root cause of Frozen shoulder, she then understood.
Frozen Shoulder refers to pain and limited movement due to degeneration or trauma to the shoulder area. Although Frozen shoulder used to be most common in people around their fifty’s, it has become much more common in younger group as well. Frozen Shoulder is considered one of major representative of muscle pain, and its name is picked up from the fact that the shoulder cannot move. The pain is severe that it can disrupt sleep, so treatment is necessary.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder include sharp and stiff pain in the shoulder when you raise the arm at a certain angle. Reaching and joining hands to the back is difficult, while everyday activity such as brushing your hair, wearing your shirt on and off, as well as cleansing your face, and eating becomes difficult because the shoulder joints do not rotate well. Pain may start on one side and then affect both sides. Pain becomes worse during night, and sleeping on the side is difficult.
Etiology of Frozen Shoulder is lack of nutrition to the shoulder muscles, thus stiffening up. Mainly, “damp phlegm” block the vessel walls and cause poor blood circulation. Damp phlegm tangle up vessels as they travel together with blood, and when they stick to the vessels walls of shoulder muscles, the muscle stiffens up as if it is calcifying, and induces severe pain.
In Western Medicine, no precise cause for Frozen Shoulder has been determined, and it only explains that degeneration in the shoulder joints due to aging promotes changes. There are cases where there was trauma on the shoulder, and after taking off the cast, the shoulder joint has become dysfunctional. And in some cases, there is just no root cause. Frozen Shoulder is mostly seen in winter, the season of less movement and poor blood circulation. Therefore, extra caution must be taken during cold weathers.
Separate treatments are offered, acupuncture and herbal medicine, which relieve swelling and inflammation after finding pain-inducing nerves, and sooth overstimulated nerve endings. Motion Style Acupuncture Treatment (MSAT) quickly relieves tightened up muscles and soft tissues by constantly moving the area while retaining acupuncture needles in. Opening up movement of joint can widen the range of motion so that the arm can be raised up high or the arms can be reached and joined to the back. This treatment is also effective in treating pain.
Herbal medicine specifically drains damp phlegm and strengthened the joints and marrow. Heat packs are much better than cold because it dilates the vessels and softens muscles.
Frozen Shoulder can heal from six months to a year even without any treatment. But put your mind for quick recovery and relieve of pain because the duration can be long and painful.
Published by KoreaTimes under <Health Column> on May 19th, 2015.