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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Buck

One Time "Frozen Shoulder" and back

Note: The original blog post in German is dated 21 March 2020.

I have decided to write my personal story here. Maybe it will help someone else. And it goes like this:

I've always been very flexible, maybe that's why I've loved yoga for decades. Namaste behind the back is a little something, Dwikonasana is my favourite exercise. I've always managed to squeeze it in, even when I didn't have the time or inclination for a full yoga session.


The change begins imperceptibly

And then suddenly, insidiously, maybe six months ago or a little longer, this exercise didn't work as well as it used to. My arms were no longer as flexible at the shoulder joints as they used to be. People around me laughed - who needs to be so flexible? And then, at some point, I could no longer grab the arms behind my back at the beginning of the exercise. Eventually I could no longer close the bra behind my back with both hands. And yet I could hardly feel anything in my right shoulder, just this restriction of movement. There was also a pain when I tried to slip into the right sleeve of my jacket after the left sleeve was already in. Yes, that pain... The more limited the movement, the more painful it was.

"It can't go on like this," I thought. I am used to difficulties; the consequences of several hip operations many years ago could only be repaired with sweat and tears. So I started stretching - the pain got worse, strengthening exercises - the pain got worse. At first it would go away after a few minutes. Then they stayed for the rest of the day. Finally, they stayed overnight.


I could no longer deny it.

That's when I accepted that I had a problem. Nothing I did helped. Quite the opposite. Everything made it worse. I could no longer extend my arm upwards, less than 90° to the side, or backwards at all. As a right-handed person, I could barely use the mouse on the computer, practising with my left; I could only use the keyboard for short periods. I could no longer sleep on the side that hurt. Then I couldn't sleep on the healthy side either. Eventually, I could no longer sleep on my stomach because even the arm stretched down was too painful. Then there were the nights when I couldn't sleep on my back either because of the pain. I had to pad the arm of the aching shoulder, and even that only helped so much. The result - I was a bundle of nerves, sleepless and in constant pain.


What I tried

In addition to my self-help attempts, I saw a Liebscher & Bracht therapist. She really gave me all her knowledge and was very committed. But it only got worse. I went to an osteopathic orthopaedic surgeon who brought a stomach bug from last summer into play. His osteopathic work was good for me, but it didn't get better. I consulted the books of Louise Hay and Rüdiger Dahlke and cleared up small emotional construction sites. But I did not get better. Of course I consulted Dr Search Engine. I made several hypotheses, but none held up. One symptom always didn't fit the picture. I took over-the-counter painkillers, but they didn't help. I had a cortisone shot in my shoulder, which at least stopped the pain for a short time. I took turmeric, magnesium, vitamin D3 with vitamin K2, vitamin B complex. It just kept getting worse.


My husband found a possible diagnosis

Of course, my husband was not unaware of my pain. He searched the Dr. search engine as hard as he could. And at some point he came up with another hypothesis: frozen shoulder. I had never heard of it before, although it is said to affect around 2-5 per cent of the population. The symptoms fit. But the possible causes were out of the question for me:

  • Injury or surgery to the shoulder: no

  • metabolic changes such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome: no

  • Neurological causes: no

What was left were vague statements such as: it was a metabolic disorder in the tissue of the shoulder. Or: "We still don't know where it comes from. But women in their 50s would be the target group. The Chinese even speak of the "50-year-old shoulder". Aha! What a 50th birthday present.

What happened next with this possible self-diagnosis

Now that the hypothesis was established, I had to deal with the consequences of this finding. And it was devastating. I learnt that this problem consists of three phases: freezing, being frozen and thawing. It could go on for two years. And the internet was full of text and video exercises to help. Every attempt to do such an exercise led to more pain and the feeling that something was wrong. With me, with the exercise, or with whoever was promoting it online. What I was beginning to realise was that while you're in the freezing phase, the only thing that works for your shoulder is rest. To think that exercise would be useful here is an illusion. Unfortunately I did not find this in any source. Everywhere I went I was told that if I did the exercises, everything would be fine.


The twist that changed everything

And then something happened that started the change, and it happened in a matter of seconds. One of the last videos I hadn't seen on the subject was "Frozen Shoulder - "The True Cause" Dallas, Texas Recovery". It was about the 11th cranial nerve, which is compressed when it leaves the skull due to incorrect posture (e.g. vulture's neck when looking down at a smartphone at an angle). As I had just worked extensively with the X cranial nerve in my professional life, the subject was no stranger to me. I asked my husband to gently pull my head back and forth while lying down. He also massaged my axis, the second vertebra, moving it gently to the right and left. And the unbelievable happened: I felt a tingling in my shoulder, it became warmer there. When I got up immediately afterwards, my mobility was much better than it had been 5 minutes before. It was fascinating. That was the key for me.


The road back to mobility

This discovery, which I found hard to believe, was the turning point, but not the immediate cure. It started the thawing process. That was about 6 weeks ago. Since then (and not before!) all the exercises for a frozen shoulder make sense. They hurt because of the stretching, but the pain stops immediately afterwards. I have also had acupuncture. It always gets a bit better. I have been able to reach things over my head again, sleep on my side again. At the moment I can even lie on my stomach with my arm over my head (but only for a few minutes). I still can't get my bra on and off, and my favourite yoga exercise isn't quite back to normal. But I know it will work. I just need a bit more patience. But I was never ready to accept the prospect of two years. And it was worth being so persistent.


Update 25th April 2021

I am very moved and also saddened to read how many people are affected, how you are doing, where you are in the freezing or thawing process and what is good for you. And that you can exchange information here. I could never have imagined this when I wrote my story.


In the meantime, my husband, who is always on the lookout for the best exercise and the best gadget for my neck and shoulder pain, has found something else that does me a lot of good: a head hammock. I attach it to a suitable spot in the house and put my head in it, relaxed, while lying down. By moving my body a little, I can put some tension on the hammock's straps, and thus on my neck. This relaxes everything. Costs little, works well. Worth a try.


Update 5th June 2021

I have created a Google Group on the subject of frozen shoulder. This is an offer to you if you would like to have a more in-depth exchange on specific topics. It is not moderated and requires a membership request to me. You can register at https://groups.google.com/g/frozen-shoulder-erfahrungsaustausch. I've disabled the visibility of the email address, only I can see it, and of course I don't use it for anything. The group is still empty - it lives from your contributions. Of course, I'm also happy if you continue to use the comment function below.


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