I Don’t Care About Your Frozen Shoulder

by Dr. Christopher on January 7, 2015

Disclaimer: The pathologies “adhesion” and “scar tissue” are used interchangeably here.  In medical terms, the only difference between the two is that an “adhesion” implies connective tissue build up without trauma while “scar tissue” implies with trauma.  

I’ve already written how I don’t care about your herniated disc.

Now, it’s time to write about something else I don’t care about.

Your frozen shoulder.

Meet: JeffFrozen Shoulder Visit 1

The patient to the right, Jeff, was diagnosed with a “frozen shoulder”, also known as “adhesive capsulitis” (wikipedia).  He experienced this condition as “stiffness and tightness” in his right shoulder that began over 18 months before his first visit with Barefoot Rehab.

Previously, Jeff had undergone “physical therapy” treatment for 2 months, starting 15 months before his first visit with Barefoot Rehab.  Traditional physical therapy uses many modalities such as ultrasound, electronic stimulation, different variations of massage, and strengthening work. Jeff noted that the “physical therapy” consisted mainly of exercises.

Here, we can assume based on his past treatment that “weakness” was the primary pathology being treated by the previous physical therapists, then “strengthening” would be the primary solution.

Remember, we always have to match up the pathology with the correct treatment for that pathology.

  • Pathology –> Solution
  • Nail –> Hammer (metaphor for using the proper tool for the proper problem)
  • Screw –> Screwdriver
  • Weakness –> Strengthening or “Physical Therapy”

He noted this treatment made his range “somewhat better”, but he still couldn’t reach overhead.  In the picture above, notice his right arm in front of his ear.  He couldn’t lift it any higher than that position and he felt a “soft, bouncy” stop at the top of his range of motion.

His range was far from normal.

Enter: Barefoot Rehab

At his first visit with us, Jeff was able to reach his shoulder about 140 degrees from his side with intense effort.

After palpating (fancy doctor’s word for “feeling”) various shoulder tissues including infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, and the posterior-inferior shoulder capsule, we were able to determine that Jeff’s primary issue was “Adhesion/Scar tissue in the right rotator cuff muscles.”

  • Adhesion –> Adhesion manipulation

Upon further examination of his history, it was determined that Jeff makes relative good lifestyle choices: he consumes alcohol minimally, does not smoke cigarettes, eats his vegetables, has effective stress management techniques, and has a regular exercise routine.  In other words, these common pathologies were minimized as problems for Jeff.

The only contributing factor to his diagnosis was his occupation, which causes him to sit at a desk for eight hours/day.  This was explained to Jeff.  We included in Jeff’s treatment plan overhead movements such as a strict press and yoga movements such as downward dog to assist in maintaining full shoulder flexion.

  • Sedentary job –> 2 minute microbreaks for every 30 minutes of sitting consisting of walking, lunging, shoulder circles.

Bye Jeff
Frozen Shoulder Visit 16

After 16 visits, Jeff was able to reach his shoulder 180 degrees from his side, almost touching his ear.  This is just shy of what a normal, healthy range would be (his arm in contact his ear).

He noted that it felt easy and he had no stiffness or tightness.

Jeff was discharged, happy with the results he achieved and comfortable knowing that he wouldn’t be putting stress on a tight shoulder joint that could leave him with a ragged, arthritic shoulder at age 50.

Dr. Christopher Stepien is a chiropractor, chronic pain specialist, A.R.T. provider, and clinic director of the Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic.  At the time of this blog post, they’ve been able to collect 57 testimonials of successful treatments.  He practices out of Heroes Journey Crossfit in Parsippany, NJ.


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