What can you do when your shoulder seizes up?
Frozen Shoulder is a very painful condition, affecting about 2% of the population, commonly in the 40-60 age group. Your shoulder becomes painful and stiffens up, and mobility is restricted. The pain can be so severe everyday tasks such as combing your hair, or getting dressed become very difficult. The cause of a frozen shoulder is not known, but it can last for up to two years. Although it is a very specific condition, it responds very well to the holistic approach of the Alexander Technique. When Peter rang me to say he’d been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder he was very fed up. His pain had come on gradually and he had ignored it until he couldn’t tie his tie in the morning. He tried heat treatment and was taking anti-inflammatory drugs, which he disliked as they upset his stomach.
Peter came for an introductory lesson. His first surprise came when I showed him how much compensation he was doing throughout his body because his shoulder hurt. He was twisting his neck to one side, pulling the painful shoulder round so his shoulder blade stuck out and curling the fingers of his hand so tightly it was difficult to straighten them. We started his lesson with him lying on my teaching table with extra support under his shoulder. He was surprised when I asked him to think about his back and neck rather than his shoulder, but gradually he began to release the additional tension that had built up in his muscles. Even his legs were tense. Every bit of unnecessary tension makes it more difficult for a particular ‘bit’ of us to fully release. So learning to release your legs and back really does make a difference to shoulder problems.
At the end of the first lesson Peter said he felt calmer and noticed his breathing was easier. His shoulder was still stiff and painful but he felt he had learned something about how his whole body played a part in his tension. Peter had 2 lessons a week for a 6 week period, saying that if he was going to do it he would do it properly. In that time his pain levels decreased enough for him to stop taking his pain killers, he learned to notice when tension was building up in him and how to release it, his mobility improved and he was delighted with how much easier his breathing was.
He continued to have weekly lessons for over a year. His shoulder healed completely and he found all his mobility much improved. He said he wished he’d discovered this self help technique years before as it offered him a positive way to manage his stress levels.