to Prevent a Frozen Shoulder
Dr. Ben Kim
of the most common and preventable physical health challenges that I have treated
over the years is called frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive
capsulitis. Even if you don't currently have a problem with your shoulders,
I highly recommend that you read this article in its entirety, as the guidelines
provided below can help you maintain healthy shoulders and prevent a wide variety
of physical ailments of the shoulder and upper back regions in the years to come.
shoulder is characterized by a gradual stiffening of the shoulder region. Women
first tend to notice that they have difficulty fastening a bra and brushing their
hair. Men first tend to notice that it is painful to put their hands in their
back pockets or to comb their hair.
frozen shoulder is sometimes classified as being idiopathic in nature i.e. without
a known cause, my experience has been that there are three major causes of the
progressive capsular tightening that characterizes this condition:
using your shoulder complex on a regular basis
main shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) is surrounded by several ligaments and
tendons that are meant to provide the joint with enough stability that it doesn't
easily dislocate and with enough flexibility that you can use your arms
for a wide variety of activities. If you don't use your shoulder complex on a
regular basis through everyday activities and exercise, these ligaments and tendons
won't receive as much blood as they need for optimal nourishment and removal of
waste products. Over time, lack of optimal blood circulation to these ligaments
and tendons can cause them to tighten up.
Poor biomechanics of the shoulder complex
shoulder complex includes your main shoulder joint, your clavicle, breast bone
(sternum), shoulder blade (scapula), and upper back (thoracic and cervical spinal
regions). All of these areas need to work well for fluid arm movement. For example,
hunching over in front of the computer for several hours a day can create an alteration
in the alignment of your shoulder blade and upper arm bone, which can put significant
stress on the ligaments and tendons that surround your shoulder complex. Over
time, this stress can cause a mild to severe degree of inflammation in the region,
which can lead to scar tissue formation and shoulder stiffening.
stress, a poor diet, a weak digestive system, and a genetic predisposition for
autoimmune activity can cause your body to produce antibodies that can damage
your own tissues, in this case, the tissues that surround your shoulder complex.
And damage of any kind to your tissues will invariably lead to scar tissue formation,
which can certainly contribute to capsular tightening in your shoulder.
are some simple steps that you can incorporate into your daily life that can virtually
eliminate your chances of developing frozen shoulder in the years ahead:
stretch the entire shoulder region, take a towel in your right hand and hold it
behind your head as though you are holding a long back scratcher. Wrap your left
arm around your left lower back so that the bony side of your left hand is against
your left lower back, just as a lady would begin to reach around to fasten her
bra. In this position, your left hand should be able to easily hold onto the bottom
of the towel. Once both hands are firmly holding onto both ends of the towel,
use your right hand to slowly pull upwards on the towel until you feel a good
stretch in your left shoulder. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and make
sure that you don't stop breathing. Then, slowly pull downwards on the towel with
your left hand until you feel a good stretch in your right shoulder. Hold again
for 30 seconds and maintain steady breathing. Repeat the same routine in reverse
- with your left hand holding the top of the towel and your right hand holding
Strengthen the tendons around your shoulders
are many ways to strengthen the tendons that surround your shoulders, but the
single best method that I know of is to hang on a bar. This may sound easy, but
I don't know too many people who can hang on a bar for more than 60 seconds. Hanging
on a bar for even 5-10 seconds a day can dramatically improve the strength of
the tendons that surround your shoulders and your upper body in general.
If you can't support your body weight on a bar, find one that is at a height that
allows your feet to be on the ground so that you can use your legs to give you
For optimal results, flex your elbows ever so slightly to
increase the amount of tension on your shoulder tendons.
of your hands can vary from day to day. Having your palms face forward will strengthen
mainly the tendons that are at the front of your shoulder complex. Having your
palms face backward will strengthen mainly the tendons that are at the back of
your shoulder complex. And having your palms face each other (if you can find
monkey bars or rings that allow you to do this) will strengthen the entire region
Stretch your spine
order for the main joint of your shoulder complex to move properly, it is essential
to have a healthy upper back region, one that isn't curved forward anymore than
it should be due to slouching forward all day long.
To combat the natural
tendency to hunch forward at a desk, at least once per day, you should perform
a stretch that allows your spine to be pushed forwards. The simplest such stretch
that I know of is to take a pillow and lay it length wise on the ground or on
you bed, lay your back on the pillow so that your bum hangs off the bottom of
the pillow, your head hangs off the top, and your arms are allowed to fall off
the sides of the pillow to rest on the ground. If you don't feel that your mid
and upper back are being stretched forward by this position, add another pillow
to increase the height of your arch. Rest in this position for as long as is comfortable,
up to 15 minutes each evening.
Include vitamin D and beneficial bacteria in your diet
you have a genetic predisposition to developing autoimmune activity in your body
or not, including reliable sources of vitamin D and friendly
bacteria in your diet can significantly strengthen your immune system and
decrease your risk of developing conditions that have an autoimmune component,
frozen shoulder included.
Eat mainly whole, minimally processed foods and adopt healthy eating habits
the event that you do have a genetic predisposition to developing autoimmune activity
in your body, it is critical for you to adopt a healthy, whole food diet and eating
habits that promote a healthy digestive system. Genetic predispositions do not
have to be expressed and can actually lay dormant for your entire life as long
as you consistently eat healthy foods in a healthy way.
real key to adopting any new lifestyle habits is to have enough motivation to
do so. Believe me, having pain and stiffness in your shoulders to a point where
you can't perform activities of daily living is not something that you want to
add to your list of life experiences.
following the steps outlined above. I'm confident that your efforts will help
you have strong and flexible shoulders in the years ahead.
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