No one knows why shoulders freeze, although previous shoulder injury or trauma plays a part. More women than men are afflicted. The incidence of frozen shoulder is 2 to 4 times higher in those with diabetes than in the general population. What I do know is: a) it is very painful, and b) everyday activities like washing your hair, putting on a shirt, and driving a manual car become impossible.
The irony is not lost on me that I spend a large part of my working day treating patients with painful necks, shoulders and backs, when I myself can hardly lift my left hand without grimacing!
But here is the upside (and because I am an inveterate optimist, there is ALWAYS an upside). I know that for me, regular acupuncture, osteopathic treatment, stretching/strengthening exercises, as well as my tai chi practice, are key to getting more movement and reducing pain and inflammation. I also have more empathy with patients in pain. Let’s face it, pain makes you grumpy. It has a way of reducing even the sunniest personality into a blubbering mess, I get that.
I also understood that there is an emotional component to a frozen shoulder. When you are going through a difficult time — whether at work or at home — you might hold yourself tight and stiff without realising it. When this goes on for years and years, this means less blood and qi (energy) circulating, which means less nourishment for muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Over a period of time, a vulnerable shoulder freezes.
During the very painful stage, my wise osteopath advised me to see my frozen shoulder not as a problem to be fixed but rather as a healing journey that I have to go on. I know now that it helps to have patience (it might takes years to resolve), be kinder to myself (what’s the use of asking what could have been done to prevent it), and rediscover my sense of humour (the advantages of not being able to do certain chores!).