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Unlocking Relief: How Massage Therapy Can Help Treat Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that severely limits the range of motion in the shoulder joint. Massage therapy offers a non-invasive approach to alleviating symptoms and promoting recovery. This blog post explores the potential benefits of massage therapy for frozen shoulder. We'll explore how massage can help manage pain, improve mobility, and contribute to a more comprehensive recovery plan. 

person suffering from frozen shoulder pain

What is Frozen Shoulder? 

Frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain that limits the range of motion in the shoulder joint. It typically develops gradually, worsening over time, and can limit the range of motion so you cannot lift your arm more than 90 degrees (shoulder height). Activities such as washing your hair or getting dressed or undressed can become increasingly difficult due to the restrictions in mobility. The exact cause is often unclear, but certain populations are more at risk: 

  • People between the ages of 40 and 60, particularly women. 

  • Conditions that limit mobility like Parkinson’s or stroke victims. 

  • Systemic conditions like diabetes, thyroid problems, and heart disease. 

  • Those with recent shoulder injuries. 

The Three Phases of Frozen Shoulder 

  1. Freezing Stage: The shoulder becomes increasingly painful, and movement becomes more limited. This stage can last from six weeks to nine months. 

  1. Frozen Stage: Pain may lessen, but the shoulder becomes stiffer, significantly restricting movement. This stage can last from four to six months. 

  1. Thawing State: Shoulder mobility gradually improves. Complete recovery can take six months to two years. 


How Massage Therapy Can Improve Frozen Shoulder 

Massage therapy offers a non-invasive approach to managing the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Here’s how it can help: 

  • Pain Relief – massage therapy helps reduce pain by relaxing the muscles around the shoulder joint. Techniques like deep tissue massage can target adhesions and tightness in the area. 

  • Improved Mobility – by breaking down adhesions and improving blood flow, massage helps increase flexibility and restore a wider range of motion. 

  • Stress Reduction – chronic pain can lead to stress and tension, which further aggravates the condition. Massage therapy promotes relaxation and reduces overall stress levels. 

  • Enhanced Healing – increased circulation from massage speeds up the healing process by delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the affected area. 


Techniques Used in Massage Therapy for Frozen Shoulder 

  • Deep Tissue Massage – focuses on deeper layers of muscle tissue, targeting specific areas of tension and adhesions to reduce stiffness and pain. 

  • Trigger Point Therapy – involves applying pressure to specific points in the muscles, helping to alleviate discomfort at the point and within the pain referral area that the trigger point affects. 

  • Swedish Massage – uses long, flowing strokes to increase circulation and promote relaxation, which can be particularly beneficial during the more painful phases. 


At-Home and Complementary Therapies 

While massage therapy can significantly improve symptoms, combining it with other treatments can enhance recovery even further: 

  • Physical Therapy – regular sessions with a physical therapist can help maintain and improve shoulder mobility. 

  • Home Exercises – gentle stretching and strengthening exercises recommended by a therapist can aid in recovery. 

  • Heat Therapy – applying heat to the shoulder before massage or exercises can help relax the muscles and increase flexibility. 

  • Proper Ergonomics – ensuring that your workstation and daily activities don’t strain your shoulder can prevent further aggravation. 


Resolve Wellness Medical Massage 

Massage therapy offers a holistic and effective way to manage pain, improve mobility, and enhance overall well-being. If you’re dealing with frozen shoulder, consider integrating massage therapy into your treatment plan to unlock relief and restore your shoulder's function. At Resolve Wellness, our massage therapists are specially trained in musculoskeletal conditions, working closely with physical therapists to create optimized treatment plans for your recovery. Book your appointment today! 


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Emily McGuire is a Marketing Associate and staff writer for Resolve Wellness. With a Bachelor's degree in International Business from UC San Diego, she is a California native with a passion for writing, digital marketing, health, and wellness.

Reviewed by: Erynne Hill, MS, ATC, HHP, BFRC, a Nationally Certified Athletic Trainer and Massage Therapist who has been a part of the healthcare field since 2002. She is the Director of Resolve Wellness, specializing in manual lymphatic drainage and prenatal massage. Erynne has extensive knowledge of both massage and physiology, even receiving her Master's degree in Exercise Physiology from San Diego State University.


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