Chiropractic Thaws Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

Many patients with shoulder pain are told have surgery, get steroid shots, or take anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, these treatments do not always work to reliably reduce symptoms, particularly in patients with frozen shoulder syndrome.

Frozen shoulder syndrome is characterized by night pain and painful restriction of shoulder movement during rotation and abduction. Only 2-5% of the general population has FSS, but rates are higher among people with Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and stroke; in fact, up to 40% of patients with diabetes suffer from FSS.

Finding an effective way to relieve FSS remains a challenge since many patients say they still experience symptoms for several years after their initial medical treatment. A recent study suggests that chiropractic treatment may provide better relief for persistent FSS.

The study included 50 patients with FSS between the ages of 40-70 years old. Patients were treated with a high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust that seeks to correct dysfunction of occipitoatlantal articulation (C0-C1 chiropractic subluxation).

After an average treatment time of 28 days, the majority of patients had substantial improvements in shoulder adduction and pain. The median average patient had their pain score drop from a nine out of ten to a two out of ten, resulting in a median 78% improvement in pain. Additionally, researchers evaluated the patients' shoulder function by measuring their degree of shoulder adduction. Sixteen patients had regained completely normal shoulder adduction; 25 patients had 75-90% improvement in shoulder adduction; and eight showed a 50-75% improvement.

"The results of this case series are encouraging in that many of these patients' complaints seemed to improve or resolve within 1 month of presentation, whereas, in general, it is thought that FSS symptoms can persist for 2 years or more," the researchers wrote.

Although large-scale studies are needed to test these results, the findings suggest that chiropractic adjustment can provide effective relief of FSS.


Murphy F. Chiropractic management of frozen shoulder syndrome using a novel technique: a retrospective case series of 50 patients. Journal of Chiropractic 2012; 11: 267-72.