One of our favorite people shares a bit of her journey recovering from frozen shoulder.
I came to Release Works because I had Frozen Shoulder. The name “frozen shoulder” is an understatement: like calling “pneumonia” a “cold”. I renamed it “Flaming hellfire of the arm”, and
Life with Frozen Shoulder:
- Constant burning pain in the arm, shoulder, and shoulder region
- Massive loss of range of movement
- “Zingers”-- when a motion triggers excruciating waves of bonus pain, leaving me breathless and sobbing. Triggered by thoughtless habitual motions, including:
- Moving the covers at night
- Reaching into the washing machine
- Retrieving a dropped pen on the floor
- Pulling on a sweater
- Closing a car hatchback
- Drinking water
- Too painful to lie on affected side, front, or back.
- Several pillows required to find a tolerable position.
- Difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Severe exhaustion from lack of sleep.
- Pain triggered by the hand movement involved in using a touch-screen device
- Arm was too painfully heavy: I was always supporting it on a pillow or the arm of a chair.
- Inability to engage in favourite pursuits like knitting and sewing.
- I desperately wanted to use a sling but understood that by restricting the arm’s movement I would only cause further damage. I did tie a pashmina into a makeshift sling so that I could endure standing up through a concert. (Shhh, don’t tell.)
- Unable to put on or remove a bra
- Difficulties brushing, washing, and putting up hair.
- Pullover shirts were a whole brand new experience in agony
- Discouragement, depression, weariness, impatience, misery
- Frozen Shoulder appears on most internet “top ten most painful ailments” lists
- Recovery regularly takes years.
- No one seems to understand
Therapy I Tried
- Adjustments were excruciating, but felt like progress
- Laser treatment to reduce inflammation provided temporary reduction in symptoms.
- Doctor worked to expand range of motion by pushing the arm’s limits
- Advised that steroids would reduce recovery from years to weeks
- Spoiler: they didn’t
- Provided steroid shot into the shoulder and oral steroids
- The shot was extremely painful, with extra hurt lasting a couple days
- Steroids allowed a minimal improvement of range of motion, but no pain relief
- (Note: My big sister also had a steroid shot and had significant pain relief.)
- Referral to Physical Therapy
- Two months later, recommended “Manipulation Under Anesthesia”: this procedure breaks the adhesions by moving the arm while the patient is unconscious
- Predicted that the procedure would hurt the day after, and within a week, I’d be completely better
- The procedure sounded so alarming I couldn’t ever be comfortable with the idea.
- I read many discussions on Frozen Shoulder Facebook Support Group to get an idea of what recovery is like in the real world. Recovery seems to be a mixed bag, with some saying “I should have done it sooner” and others still in pain months later.
- Provided exercises that helped strengthen wasting muscles and expand range of motion
- Therapists worked to preserve remaining range of motion by moving the arm, and to expand the range of motion by moving the arm past the comfort zone.
- I visited different LMTs with varying results
- Massage that targeted inflamed areas had the most success
- Cupping and scraping helped
- Some massage caused an increase in pain
- Therapists that tried moving my arm to increase the range of motion caused more pain.
I was experiencing emotional distress as well as pain associated with the therapeutic movement of my shoulder. Chiropractic sessions were bringing up a replay of grief connected with the loss of my mother. I was discussing with a friend how best to address the emotional side of the injury, and she suggested “myofascial unwinding”. Googling led me to some youtube videos, the John Barnes website, and Release Works of Salt Lake City.
Highlights of Myofascial Release Therapy
- The work that the Release Works therapists did was totally different than the previous therapy I’d experienced.
- At no point did they push my arm past its limits; instead, they worked diligently within its range of motion to address the problems and enable healing.
- The myofascial release therapy was always gentle, but rarely easy.
- They worked with the root physical causes of the impairment, walking me through a complicated healing process quite like untangling a knotted ball of yarn.
- They worked with my shoulder, arm, hand, rib cage, shoulder blade, hips, back, and even skull and foot.
- They also helped me sort through the emotions that surfaced during healing.
- My range of motion returned in stages.
- Later in recovery they helped reprogram the way my arm moved.
- From the months of pain, I had been protecting and bracing the muscles
- Sessions that addressed the pattern of motion resulted in immediate improvement
- I did work at home to loosen up stuck areas, enabling things to eventually fall back into place, one by one.
- Sometimes I got frustrated with my progress, but then I’d go in for a session and experience measurable change every time.
I have read a lot about people’s experience with frozen shoulder. Recovery is long and slow, never linear, and frequently incomplete. The timeline for recovery is measured in months and more commonly, years. I believe that the work I did with Release Works enabled a complete recovery and will prevent any future occurrences.
If this sounds familiar, we’d love to talk.