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Can Active Release Techniques Help With Frozen Shoulder?

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, can be a truly debilitating condition that can last a relatively long time. Finding a treatment that can help to speed up recovery can be a trial-and-error pursuit, and very often patients end up having to wait it out while taking painkillers to deal with the pain. But there are options out there that can help to reduce the symptoms of frozen shoulder, and one of them is Active Release Techniques.

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is a condition where the tissue around the shoulder becomes inflamed, gets tighter, and then shrinks. The tightening of the tissue results in pain, stiffness, and a reduction in the range of motion. Frozen shoulder can last anywhere from 1.5 years to 3 years, but it usually does get better eventually. The exact cause of frozen shoulder isn't known, but it can be triggered by an injury, surgery, and diabetes.

How can Active Release Techniques help treat frozen shoulder?

Active Release Techniques are a form of soft tissue therapy that focuses on treating adhesions that have formed within the muscles and connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, etc). The reasoning is that small amounts of damage to the muscles and connective tissue triggers the body to form scar tissue to protect the area. Over time, this scar tissue can form bundles called adhesions that can interfere with the functioning of the muscles, cause pain, and cut off some of the blood supply.

Active Release Techniques practitioners use a variety of different techniques to break up these adhesions, depending on the outcome of the diagnostic process, as well as where and how big the adhesions are. They are able to feel for the adhesions and assess them to come up with the best treatment plan.

The basic technique is a form of active soft tissue therapy. The patient will contract the affected muscle so that it is in its shortest position. The Active Release Technique practitioner will then apply pressure directly to the adhesion while the patient lengthens the muscle to its longest position. This process directly breaks up the adhesion, releasing the muscle from its tension.

Active Release Techniques has been successfully applied to the treatment of frozen shoulder. One study looked at the results of Active Release Technique alongside conventional treatments and found that the patients who received Active Release Technique had a greater improvement in their range of motion as well as a reduction in pain compared to patients who only received conventional treatments, over the course of 5 weeks.

Frozen shoulder can greatly interfere with patients' quality of life and especially so because it is so long-lasting. Active Release Techniques can help to quickly reduce the worst symptoms of frozen shoulder, including improving the range of motion in the shoulder and reducing the pain that results from the condition. It is non-invasive and doesn't involve the use of medications, so there are virtually no side effects to the treatment, and improvements can start from just a few sessions.

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