Anyone who's had a frozen shoulder knows how stubborn and resistant the condition can be. Often lasting for a few years with little relief, it's a debilitating disorder that's been described as idiopathic ' it appears to arrive from nowhere and no one seems to know why. We look at the alternative approach of treating the physical ailment with emotional healing.
Frozen shoulder (or adhesive capsulitis) is an inflammatory condition in the synovial lining of the shoulder joint. In the beginning stages it typically comes with lots of pain and restricted movement. It then literally freezes, restricting movement to such an extent that getting your hand into a sleeve, lifting your arm to wash your hair, getting something from a cupboard or any activity that requires elevating your arm is simply not possible. The difficult part is that it usually lasts for a couple of years. Many people go on a journey of trying different therapies and physical interventions to relieve it - from physio and Lyno to osteopathy, acupuncture and everything in between. Some even end up exploring the cause from within.
Acupuncturist, author and avid researcher of alternative therapies Dr. Michael Greenwood maintains that a frozen shoulder may be initiated by a traumatic event that leads to repressed anger. According to him, the synovium (the connective tissue lining the shoulder joint) in a frozen shoulder is 'angry red' in colour.
Frozen shoulder has been alleviated by emotional therapies like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). In one particular case, a woman worked with an EFT practitioner and discovered that she had a huge amount of anger towards her husband. Once she resolved the anger, her shoulder healed almost immediately. Holistic radiologist Dr. Larry Burke experienced something similar. His right shoulder started to hurt, seemingly without reason. It worsened over the next few days, and he began to experience less range of movement. Being a musculoskeletal radiologist, he knew the symptoms pointed to a frozen shoulder.
Not wanting to spend years waiting for the condition to heal, Dr. Burke went into emotional therapy to address possible anger issues. He was an avid political activist and had been devastated by the election results of the time. He had felt powerless to do anything about the situation, and this had elicited a huge amount of anger. He used EFT to access the anger and managed to release his shoulder in a few months rather than waiting out the average time of a few years. Many expressions speak about 'carrying our burdens on our shoulders', and it makes sense for a condition to manifest in your shoulder if you're feeling overburdened.
There is also research being done on 'symbolic diseases', in which the symptoms or an ailment seem to correlate directly to a patient's life story. Something called a somatic metaphor is used as a useful clue to triggering the healing process in mysterious ailments or maladies. This approach involves honouring symptoms as messengers from the unconscious about an emotional imbalance or block that needs to be healed rather than suppressed with medication.
A symbolic ailment is said to originate in a conflict between the person and his or her past. Psychotherapist Roz Carroll explains that it manifests as an energetic pattern in the body, which may over time (especially if the conflict remains unconscious) result in symptoms. This could be a constellation of symptoms (like those experienced in an immune disorder like lupus) or a particular symptom like a frozen shoulder.
With the average frozen shoulder lasting for a couple of years and without much success from physical therapies, the best action to follow may be to explore an emotional therapy, looking for evidence of suppressed anger or unexpressed emotion. Emotional Freedom Technique, Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and BodyTalk are all disciplines that work to unblock emotions.
Frozen shoulder affects about three percent of the adult population. It affects women much more than men, and is most common in people between 40 and 65 years old. Professionals don't really know the reason why a frozen shoulder develops. Treatment is usually targeted at relieving pain and stiffness and trying to keep the range of mobility as much as possible during the time it takes to heal. It can last for an average of 18 months to three years, and generally goes through three phases:
1. PAIN AND LOSS OF MOBILITY
This initial phase lasts between two and nine months, and is accompanied by a lot of pain with increasing stiffness and loss of mobility. Pain may be heightened at night, and can be so severe that it interrupts sleep.
This period lasts from four to 12 months, and although the pain eases considerably, the stiffness and limited movement become worse. Lifting the arm forward is generally slightly easier than lifting the arm up sidewards. During this time it becomes impossible to do normal daily actions like taking things off a shelf or putting the arm into a sleeve.
It could take anything between one and three years for the shoulder to release completely. It happens incrementally. Because the shoulder has been out of action for so long, the muscles require strengthening before they are able to function as they did before.
Use natural anti-inflammatories to help ease the pain, especially in the initial stages.
Be gentle with your body, adjusting your daily activities to accommodate the loss of mobility from your shoulder.
Use treatments like acupuncture, physiotherapy, muscle release, massage and therapeutic exercise to try to maintain maximum mobility in the shoulder.
Speed up the healing by consulting an osteopath to look at the condition from all aspects, including physical, emotional, lifestyle and contextual factors.
Keep up your exercise routine, even if you have to swap your standard tennis, yoga, gym or dance for lower body exercise like hiking.
Find any possible causes of anger or emotional upheavel and work to dissolve them with the help of EFT, BodyTalk or TRE.
Be patient and understand that your body is communicating something important to you. Your subconscious will know what it is, and it's your job to bring it to conscious attention.