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End frozen shoulder pain naturally with bodywork therapy

Last Updated: June 17, 2024

Have you ever experienced stiffness and pain in your shoulder that just won’t go away? You might be dealing with a condition called frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis. This issue can creep up on you, gradually limiting your ability to move your shoulder freely and making everyday tasks a challenge.

While traditional treatments can help, they don’t always provide complete relief. That’s where bodywork therapy comes in. Bodywork therapy involves a variety of hands-on techniques specifically designed to improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance your overall sense of well-being.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

The shoulder joint, also known as the synovial joint, has a special membrane called the “capsule” that keeps it sealed off from the rest of your body. Sometimes, this capsule can get stuck, a condition known as adhesive capsulitis or “frozen shoulder.”

When this happens, the shoulder muscles tighten and become inflamed. In an attempt to heal and stabilize the area, the body produces extra collagen around the joint, pulling it together like a bandage. This added collagen causes the surrounding tissues to thicken and severely restricts the shoulder’s range of motion, leading to stiffness and pain.

At Bodywork Masters, we locate and release the tension build-up around the capsule that is the root cause of frozen shoulder. Reducing this tension creates an optimal environment for healing and recovery.

Frozen shoulder condition or adhesive capsulitis syndrome outline diagram.

Symptoms and Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder typically progresses through three stages, each with distinct symptoms:

  1. Freezing Stage:
    • Symptoms: Persistent pain that worsens with movement and often intensifies at night.
    • Range of Motion: Gradual loss of shoulder movement.
    • Duration: This stage can last from six weeks to nine months.
  2. Frozen Stage:
    • Symptoms: Pain may lessen, but stiffness remains severe, significantly limiting shoulder movements.
    • Activities Affected: Difficulty performing tasks such as reaching overhead, dressing, or lifting light objects.
    • Duration: This stage can last from four to six months.
  3. Thawing Stage:
    • Symptoms: Gradual return of movement and decreased pain.
    • Recovery: Full or near-full recovery of shoulder mobility.
    • Duration: This stage can last from six months to two years.

Causes and Risk Factors of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is typically the result of inflammation and thickening of the capsule surrounding your shoulder joint, but the exact reason for this inflammation isn’t always clear. However, there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing this pesky condition.

Potential Causes:

  • Injury or Surgery:If you’ve had a shoulder injury or surgery that required immobilization, this can lead to a frozen shoulder.
Female African-American doctor at hospital prescribing treatment and talking to young male patient wearing injury support sling.
  • Diabetes: Those with diabetes are at a higher risk, although the connection isn’t fully understood.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal imbalances, particularly in women going through menopause, can contribute to the condition.
  • Prolonged Immobility: Extended periods of immobility due to stroke, injury, or other health conditions can lead to frozen shoulder.

Risk Factors:

  • Age: Frozen shoulder is most common in people aged 40-60.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop it than men.
  • Medical Conditions: Diabetes, thyroid disorders, and cardiovascular diseases increase the risk.
  • Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle and poor posture can contribute to shoulder stiffness.

So, if you fall into any of these risk categories, it’s important to be extra mindful of your shoulder health and seek prompt treatment if you start experiencing any symptoms.

Bodywork Therapy for Frozen Shoulder

Bodywork therapy uses various hands-on techniques designed to improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance overall well-being. Common types of bodywork therapy used that can be used to treat frozen shoulder are myofascial release, cupping therapy, trigger point therapy, joint therapy, and assisted stretching.

Myofascial Release

Ever feel like your muscles and connective tissues are just one big knot of tension? Myofascial release targets exactly that – the tension and tightness in the fascia, the connective tissue surrounding your muscles.

By gently releasing these restrictions, myofascial release improves shoulder flexibility and range of motion, making it easier for you to move your joint and reduce stiffness.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping is an ancient technique that involves creating suction on the skin using specialized cups. This suction helps promote pain relief, reduce inflammation, and relax those stubborn muscles by releasing tension.

For frozen shoulder, cupping enhances blood flow to the shoulder area, loosens up the connective tissue, and triggers your body’s natural pain-relieving mechanisms, all of which can help manage your symptoms.

Cupping process applied along the spine

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy focuses on specific points of muscle tension called trigger points.

By releasing tension in muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, trigger point therapy alleviates pain, improves range of motion, and enhances overall shoulder function in individuals with frozen shoulder.

Joint Therapy

Joint therapy, also known as joint mobilization or manipulation, is focused on enhancing joint movement and function.

It works to restore joint movement, break up scar tissue, reduce pain, improve joint alignment, and enhance body awareness (proprioception).

Assisted Stretching

Sometimes, you just need a little help to get those stretches done right. Assisted stretching involves working with a trained professional who will guide you through stretches designed to improve your flexibility and range of motion.

For frozen shoulder, this can increase your shoulder’s mobility, improve flexibility, release tension, promote proper movement patterns, enhance circulation, and boost proprioception – a winning combination for improved shoulder function and reduced symptoms.

Trigger Point Therapy with pressure applied to shoulder

Benefits of Bodywork Therapy for Frozen Shoulder:

  • Increased Range of Motion: Helps restore movement in the shoulder joint.
  • Pain Relief: Reduces discomfort and pain.
  • Enhanced Circulation: Promotes better blood flow to the affected area.
  • Muscle Relaxation: Eases tension in surrounding muscles.
  • Stress Reduction: Alleviates stress, contributing to overall well-being.
  • Improvement in Overall Well-being: Enhances quality of life by improving shoulder function and reducing pain.

Collectively, these benefits make bodywork therapy a valuable component of treatment for frozen shoulder, helping individuals regain mobility, reduce pain, and improve their overall quality of life.

Prevention and Complementary Approaches

While bodywork therapy is effective, incorporating additional strategies can further aid in managing and preventing frozen shoulder:

  • Regular Exercise: Engage in shoulder exercises to maintain mobility and flexibility.
Sporty woman sitting crossed legged doing a shoulder stretch warm up exercise before training outside.
  • Posture Awareness: Maintain good posture to avoid undue stress on the shoulder joint.
  • Active Recovery: Gently move and stretch the shoulder daily, especially after injury or surgery.
  • Professional Guidance: Seek advice from healthcare providers to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Qualified Practitioners: Ensure your bodywork therapist is trained and experienced in treating frozen shoulder.
  • Combine Treatments: Physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes can complement bodywork therapy for optimal results.
  • Regular Assessments: Track progress and adjust treatments as needed for the best outcomes.

Client Case Study

Suzanne’s firsthand experience as a client clearly shows the impact of bodywork therapy on frozen shoulder. Suzanne first came to Bob after having surgery for frozen shoulder. Despite physical therapy, she still had limited range of motion and persistent pain.

Bob used a combination of massage techniques like deep tissue, myofascial release, and stretching exercises tailored specifically for her frozen shoulder.

With regular orthopedic massage sessions, Suzanne saw impressive improvements. Her range of motion increased significantly, allowing her to do daily activities more easily. Her pain levels also gradually decreased.

Years later, when she developed frozen shoulder in her other shoulder, she decided to skip surgery and continue orthopedic massage with Bob instead.

Again, through consistent massage therapy focusing on alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, and restoring mobility, Suzanne regained full range of motion in her second frozen shoulder without any invasive procedures and a faster healing time.

Bob’s targeted massage approach provided amazing results for this client’s frozen shoulders in both cases.

“I have recommended dozens of people to Bob, I truly believe that anyone that has pain in their body or lack of range of motion could benefit, and avoid surgery/medication. My husband, children and siblings have all been treated at BWM. My husband and I keep regular appointments with Bob for maintenance.”

– Suzanne Lowry


Frozen shoulder can greatly impact daily life and well-being. While traditional treatments provide limited relief, bodywork therapy offers a promising alternative through techniques like myofascial release, cupping, trigger point therapy, joint mobilization, and assisted stretching.

The benefits are clear. These techniques can significantly improve mobility, reduce pain, enhance circulation, promote muscle relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall quality of life providing a non-invasive, effective alternative to surgery or medication.

Older man throwing a ball to his dog on the beach.

Additionally, incorporating preventative measures such as regular exercise, maintaining good posture, and active recovery can help manage and prevent frozen shoulder. Combining bodywork therapy with other treatments like physical therapy and medication, under the guidance of healthcare professionals, can also optimize recovery.

If you’re facing the challenges of frozen shoulder, consider bodywork therapy as a viable option to regain your mobility and reduce pain. With the right approach, you can restore your shoulder function and enjoy a better quality of life!

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