TREATING FROZEN SHOULDER
Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. Stage 1, which typically lasts from 2-9 months, is characterized by inflammation that causes mild to severe shoulder pain that is worse at night. Stage 2 (4-12 months), causes a build up of fibrotic scar tissue that accumulates within the shoulder joint causing further decrease in range of motion. Extensive physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and exercises/stretching are the current methods of treatment, yet frozen shoulder can last up to 3 years even with these treatment methods. That’s where low level laser therapy, also called LLLT or cold laser, can come into play.
Cold laser is completely pain free and non invasive treatment tool we use quite frequently at our Acubalance clinic. When exposed to red and infrared light, your cells absorb these photons and use it to stimulate ATP (cellular energy) production to accelerate the healing response through a process called photobiomodulation. This healing response accelerates cell metabolism and regeneration (replacement and repair of abnormal cells at the DNA level), decrease inflammation (increases antiinflammatory cytokines and decreases proinflammatory cytokines), increase blood circulation and lymph flow, aids angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), and facilitates the secretion of serotonin, acetylcholine, and endorphin release for pain management. All of these mechanisms reduce the inflammation and pain associated with frozen shoulder
I recently treated a patient for frozen shoulder, who I will call John. John had tried everything for his frozen shoulder by the time he had gotten to me, and was desperate for relief. We began treatments twice a week. By the 7th treatment, John started noticing slight improvement in pain and range of motion. After the 10th treatment he noticed reduced pain and stiffness during the day. We continued to get results (especially when we added guasha “scraping” therapy to his treatment protocol) so we tapered off treatments to only once per week after the treatment number 15. And by the 17th treatment, John was completely pain free and his entire range of motion returned.
In my experience with low level laser therapy, results are almost always seen by the fifth or sixth treatment. By then I have a good understanding of how the patient’s body is responding to the laser and what the course of treatment may look like. However with a case like frozen shoulder, it seems that more treatments are necessary in order to get successful results. Does this mean that it will be the same for everyone with frozen shoulder? Absolutely not. If I’ve learned one thing from using cold laser in my practice it’s that every single person responds differently to laser, and there’s no way to predict results without trying it first. Fortunately, I’ve never had a single patient that has not responded to cold laser in some beneficial way.
What John’s case demonstrates is that it may take up to 20 treatments to effectively treat frozen shoulder. However 2-3 months of regular treatment is nothing compared to the 2-3 years of pain, restriction, and lack of mobility it typically entails.
Do you or anyone you know suffering with frozen shoulder and not getting the results they’d like to see? Call Acubalance at 604-678-8600 to book a free 15 minute Q&A to see if laser therapy & acupuncture is right for you.