Frozen shoulder syndrome (also called adhesive capsulitis) is a painful condition that prevents you from moving your shoulder and arm through their full range of motion.
This condition occurs in the glenohumeral joint, sometimes called the shoulder joint, where the upper arm bone meets the shoulder blade. Surrounding the joint is a capsule that contains fluid to lubricate the joint, ligaments to hold the joint together, and other soft tissue.
If you develop inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the capsule, your shoulder can become frozen. Although the cause is often unknown, what happens is that part of the joint capsule sticks to itself, creating pain when you attempt to move your arm.
Sometimes, other shoulder problems are mistakenly labeled frozen shoulder, so an accurate diagnosis from a professional healthcare provider is important.
A distinguishing characteristic of this shoulder problem is that the first restricted motion is you cannot externally rotate (turn the palm forward) your arm. The next restriction is you cannot lift your arm to the side, and then you cannot internally rotate your arm. (This order of motion restriction is the capsular pattern for a shoulder that's frozen; other shoulder problems will have other capsular patterns.)
Brian Schiff, a licensed physical therapist and author of The Ultimate Frozen Shoulder Therapy Guide provides the following self care tips. As always, see a healthcare practitioner for advice specific to your situation.
Massage for this shoulder problem may start with relaxation techniques on the muscles around the shoulder. The massage therapist may then use active engagement techniques, where you contract a muscle and the therapist does a massage technique as you release the contraction.
The massage therapist may also release myofascial trigger points (irritable points that cause pain in a location other than at the point itself). Another option is slow, gentle stretching of the shoulder muscles.
Dealing with this shoulder problem is often a long process—the problem can last a year or more, even with treatment. Patience and a gentle approach is likely to yield the best results. Ask massage therapists about their experience dealing with frozen shoulder.