Anna’s frozen shoulder journey

In 2011 I was at home recovering from surgery on my right hand to remove a dorsal Dupuytren’s nodule, when my left shoulder started hurting a bit. For about 2 months it was just a niggling pain, I did some stretching exercises and thought I would keep it mobile with that. Slowly the pain went worse, and I went to see my GP with the fear it was turning into a frozen shoulder. By the time I saw my GP I could not put my arm in the air or my hand behind my back. My GP took one look and said ‘frozen shoulder, I will refer you for physiotherapy’.

Eight weeks later (!) I had my first session. I was given a leaflet with some exercises and come back next week. At each weekly appointment for the next 2 months some heat was applied, a bit of a massage was done and some movements tested which were still restricted. Once the treatment hurt, apart from that I did not feel anything. As I was not getting any better the next step was a steroid injection in the shoulder joint. This settled the pain enough so I could sleep at night without waking up each time I moved. But it did nothing for the lack of movement. Another 3 month of physiotherapy went by, and then I got told seeing that it was not improving it was no use continuing, just wait 2 years and it would probably settle by itself. At that stage I could not carry a cup of tea in my left hand, could not lift my arm to even shave my armpit and I was getting desperate. So that same week I phoned a osteopath clinic in town where they have a sport therapist working. Sport therapists in my experience want to get the patient back to normal use of whatever body part bothers them, and if the treatment hurts they don’t stop but if it is beneficial they will continue. And I felt that is what I needed, I could not do exercises as the pain when trying them was so bad I automatically stopped, I needed someone to push me through that barrier while I could just concentrate on ignoring the pain.

Yes the treatment hurt, and once my therapist knew me and how I felt, if I said ‘that is as much as I can bare’ he would say ‘just a bit more’ and he was always right, and I might have the fingerprint bruises around my shoulder afterwards, but also a larger range of mobility again! Within a few weeks I could lift my arm again, and at work they told me I looked like the Cheshire Cat with that silly grin on my face when I could finally touch the ceiling.

It took well over a year to get my left shoulder 98% working again, as I had lots of adhesions in the muscles around my shoulder caused by not using it properly for so long (and by the fact that my body thinks it is fun to create adhesions and to fibrose).

When I felt my right shoulder starting I was at the clinic within 5 days, and it took 2 months to sort that one out. Later on my left shoulder started again, I was back at the physiotherapist and after about 3 month it was sorted.

Some easy ways to work on your shoulder:

Get yourself a pink 2.5 kg dumbell and hold it in the hand of your bad shoulder. Let your arm swing gently when walking or sitting at home to put gentle pull on the joint. These are called Codman’s exercises.  Get wrist weights that help pulling the hand and wrist down in another exercise: lay on your back on the floor, hold the elbow straight, start with te affected arm by your side, move the hand sideways and up so it ends up above your head, but try to keep your hand and wrist on the floor or as close to it as possible.

Some of the shoulder exercises I did.

My advise? Get treated as soon as possible and only if the treatment brings tears to your eyes is it any use.

Some of the techniques my therapist used: Active release, Neil Asher and Graston. He uses any part of any technique he knows depending on what the patient needs. He also applied kinesiology tape regularly after a treatment.

shoulder taped

Finger print bruise after physiotherapy.


Now: I wear sports bras, as I was advised that the thinner the strap the more pressure in a small area of shoulder muscle. I have been told not to wear more than 2.5 kg either side, that does not work of course. If I use a shoulder bag I try to alternate sides regularly so I don’t hold one shoulder slightly higher than the other. I do stretching exercises as soon as I feel any pain.

I have not seen my therapist for over almost a year, so I hope it has settled down again.