Frozen Shoulder Pain


Today I received an interesting message on one of the forums that I moderate and I want to share it with you. The woman has a case of frozen shoulder, a really painful condition that can vary in severity from mild discomfort and flexibility issues, to incredible pain and serious debilitating range-of-motion problems. Here is the woman’s question:

I did a lot of yard work, raking, and then shop vac’d the entire house. I woke up to spasms in my shoulders and deltoids. I went to the Chiropractor who diagnosed me with impingement of the shoulders. He gave me some stretches to do with a cord-like red band. I faithfully did them and each day, my arms hurt more and more. After three weeks, I knew i had ruined myself. I had knots all over my biceps, my forearms, triceps, etc. It was excruciating and I was totally debilitated. It’s been four months and six cortisone shots since. I have had my shoulders done, my biceps, trapezius and my spine (a bulged disk in my neck which is actually an old injury). I do not think it is my spine, nor do two neuropeople. My muscles have gotten better, but I am still debilitated from doing my normal routine. My shoulders are still impinged and giving me terrible pain. I am on hydrocodone every day for the pain. I am going to try to do some physical therapy, but I am still so tender that it even bothers me to type this. Who should I see for help? I am going to beg an orthopaedic person to inject my shoulders again. There is hope for that to be solved. My arms though, are sooo delicate. My husband is growing weary of having to do the housework. Would massage be best? Or is this just a time thing yet? Please help. I am at my wits end with this in both arms.

My heart went out to this woman, I remembered when I had frozen shoulder, it was a nightmare! I’ve never before or since experienced such pain, and nobody was coming up with any solutions. Of course my first course of treatment was going for massage, but none of the therapists I went to were focused or deep enough to make a difference, and the one lady I did find who could give me some relief was not long lasting. I went to every kind of doctor, had cortisone injections (HORRIBLE!!) and took more drugs than I’d like to admit, but still I was in pain. Then I started to think about each muscle involved, and how I would treat you if you came to my office with the same problem. This is how I started to figure out the self-treatments I teach, in fact, the shoulder was my very first step into self-treatment. I had to work on each muscle and what seemed like hundreds of trigger points (there are a lot of muscles in the shoulder), and slowly as I released the spasms I’d start to stretch for a bit, then go back to treating the points again. It was a very long process – from July (when it started) until February (when I could honestly say I was 100% better), but my journey was longer than my clients because I was in such terrible shape when I started, and I had to figure it out as I went. But, one thing for sure, I KNOW that the Julstro self-treatments work!

Here’s the response I gave to this woman:

From the sound of what you are describing, I’d say you have frozen shoulder. It sounds so innocent, but it’s one of the toughest things I’ve personally ever dealt with through all the repetitive strain injuries I’ve experienced. I can hear your pain and frustration, and I’m happy to let you know that this can be treated very effectively and quickly, but stretching isn’t the answer. Unfortunately stretching a muscle that has spasms in the fibers can definitely cause more pain, and may even tear the muscle fibers. Imagine taking a 12″ length of line, tying enough knots in it so it is 11″ and then trying to stretch it back to 12″. The same thing happens with your muscles. However, if you first untied the knots (release the spasms) and then stretched it, you’d be successful.

Before we go further, I suggest you go to and read the section called “Muscles and Pain” and “What’s Happening Exactly.” It will give you a much better understanding of what is actually happening. Your shoulder has more muscles attached to it then any other joint in the body.

The movements you did simply repetitively strained each of those muscles and tied “knots” (spasms) in all of the muscles. As a result, the muscle in the front is pulling your shoulder that way, but the muscle in the back isn’t lengthening so you can make the movement. At the same time, the muscles in the back (there are many) are pulling your shoulder back, but the muscle in the front is too short to allow your shoulder to go back. AND, the deltoids (around your shoulder cap) are in spasm on the front, side, and back, each preventing easy movement in any direction. There are other muscles that are lower down (specifically: latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, and more) that are holding your arm down and preventing you from lifting it. If you just release the spasms in each of the muscles that impact your shoulder (it’s easier than it sounds) it will release the tension on the joint and your shoulder will be just fine.

I once had such a severe case of frozen shoulder in my left shoulder that when my arm was down to the side my total range-of-motion was 3″ to the front, 3″ away from my side, and I couldn’t even bring my thumb back past the side-seam of my pants. Absolutely every self-treatment that I teach people comes from that injury, and I became 100% better by releasing all of the many spasms in each of the muscles.

After you read the website mentioned, you’ll see how you can learn how to self-treat each of the muscles. Especially when it comes to the shoulder, it’s important to know self-treatments because they need to be done several times a day. I also suggest you hold off on stretching until you have released the spasms, and then alternate treat-stretch-treat-stretch. It’s not a short treatment program, but it will work.

You may also benefit by first going to a good massage therapist who is trained at doing trigger point therapy and myofascial release. Tell the therapist not to stretch the muscles, just to treat the spasms. Then you can pick up and move it forward.

I hope you’ll forward this message to anyone who has shoulder pain, it could be the answer they are looking for.

Wishing you well,
Julie Donnelly


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