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Best Frozen Shoulder Massage Techniques

by Patty Weasler, RN November 24, 2020 0 Comments

Woman massaging shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful condition that seriously restricts the mobility of your shoulder. It feels like your shoulder is frozen in place, hence the name. A proper frozen shoulder massage is often performed by a physical therapist or massage therapist, but there are simple at home massages you can perform to encourage thawing and provide pain relief. Keep scrolling to learn about both professional and at home massage techniques.

Professional Massage Techniques

A massage therapist is professionally trained to apply specific massage methods to relieve pain, tension, and manage certain conditions like frozen shoulder. Here is more detail on the different types of massage you may encounter.

Additionally, physical therapists are trained in administering sports massage and physiotherapy treatments to manipulate the ligaments and work soft tissues.

  • Deep Tissue Massage

    A deep tissue massage, sometimes called myofascial massage, uses slow, firm pressure to eliminate tension. Your massage therapist will press deep into your soft tissue to reach the deepest areas of muscle, fascia, ligaments, and tendons. The fascia is a protective layer over muscles, joints, and bones. Releasing this specific tissue can relax tightness and improve range of motion. By applying deep tissue massage in people with frozen shoulder, massage therapists can help sufferers regain mobility and reduce pain.

  • Trigger Point Therapy

    Trigger point therapy focuses on muscle knots or tight areas of muscle in your shoulders and neck. These trigger points cause pain not only at their exact location but can cause pain in other areas of the body as well. Frozen shoulder massage that uses trigger point therapy uses a pressure and release method to work on those tight areas. The affected shoulder should experience some pain relief and improve mobility.

  • Heat Therapy

    Heat is used in so many different ways to alleviate tension and pain. The warmth increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles. When combining a professional massage with heat your massage therapist will be able to work deeper into the affected arm releasing adhesions and tightness.

  • Swedish Massage

    A Swedish massage uses long strokes to work the tension out of the muscle. This technique is probably the most popular massage treatment. This option is beneficial to people who cannot handle the pressure of deep tissue or trigger point massage therapy. Swedish massage will not release trigger points but can improve overall muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Self Massage for a Frozen Shoulder

Continuing massage treatment at home can help promote further shoulder mobility and release tension.

  • Foam Rolling

    Massaging the shoulder muscles can be difficult without the right massage tools. A foam roller is a hard tool that allows you to press deep into your soft tissue releasing tension and stiffness. In frozen shoulder syndrome, you can use a foam roller while laying on the ground rolling your underarm or the anterior or posterior areas of your shoulder. Adjusting your own body weight against this tool will help you achieve the amount of pressure that works best for you.

  • Trigger Point Therapy

    Applying trigger point therapy at home for frozen shoulder is best done using a massage cane or another tool that allows you to press deep into specific points of your body. Press the massage cane over any tight areas you feel in your shoulder or upper arm. Steadily increase the pressure until you feel that the tightness has released. This should not feel painful but there may be some discomfort. Stop if you feel pain.

  • Hot and Cold Therapy

    Hot and cold are two complementary therapies that work very differently to achieve positive outcomes for frozen shoulder. Cold therapy will numb the pain making massage more tolerable but the cold can tighten muscles, limiting your range of motion. Use a cold massage roller ball to alleviate that pain and massage into your shoulder muscles. Heat loosens muscles and primes them for a massage. We recommend this when you will be doing deeper massages as the heat will relax the muscles making it easier to get deep into the tissue.

    How to Properly Alternate Between Hot & Cold Therapy

Alternative Massage Treatments

Here are alternative treatments that can be used in conjunction with massage therapy and other frozen shoulder treatments.

  • TENS Therapy

    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy uses a small device called a TENS unit that is connected to adhesive patches. These patches are placed over the painful area of the body and the device delivers a small electrical current. This current interrupts the pain signal providing pain relief. While the relief is temporary it still can give you a much needed break from frozen shoulder pain.

  • Acupuncture

    Acupuncture is an Eastern medicine practice that uses thin needles inserted in the body. It has been thought this practice can reduce pain and stress. When used for frozen shoulder, acupuncture has been shown in a study that it may help sufferers improve mobility.

  • Chiropractic Massage

    A chiropractor uses different methods like alignment to treat the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Their treatment may also prevent the condition from even occurring.

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Frozen Shoulder

There are trigger points in and around the shoulder joint that are thought to be a contributing factor to frozen shoulder. Trigger points are areas of muscle that can feel like a knot or bump under your skin or are tender to pressure; which can cause muscle spasms, weakness, and pain. Here’s some benefits of massage for your shoulder injury.

  • Release trigger points 
  • Improved mobility and shoulder function 
  • Improved blood flow to the area
  • Less tension
  • Overall sense of well-being

Don’t forget to incorporate frozen shoulder stretches and exercises as they are an important part of your overall recovery from this condition.

Caution with Massage Treatment

Frozen shoulder is a difficult condition to treat. With the guidance of your physical therapist and doctor, your treatment plan may include anti-inflammatory medications, shoulder stretches and exercises, and massage therapy. Massage therapy can be done by a professional massage therapist or in the comfort of your own home. Always follow the instructions of medical professionals and stop any massage that causes pain.


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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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