One of the most common physical complaints is shoulder pain, and a lot of us will suffer from it in various forms in our lifetime. The shoulder is made up of several joints combined with tendons and muscles that allow a great range of motion in your arm. As there are so many different structures that make up the shoulder, it is vulnerable to many different problems.
Here at Cryozone Health, many of our clients have experienced significant and life changing improvements in their shoulder pain and injuries as a result of using our Cryotherapy. But what causes the pain in the first place, and how does cryotherapy compare to other recommended treatments?
Rotator Cuff injuries
Your arm is kept in your shoulder socket by your rotator cuff: a group of muscles and tendons forming a covering around the head of your upper arm bone to attach it to your shoulder blade.
A lubricating sac, called a bursa, sits between the rotator cuff and the bone on top of your shoulder (acromion). This allows the rotator cuff tendons to glide freely when you move your arm.
Rotator cuff pain and injury is common in young athletes and middle-aged people. Those who use their arms overhead in their sport, for example tennis players and swimmers, are prone to injury in this area. Those who do repetitive lifting or overhead activities, such as construction or painting are also susceptible.
Pain in the rotator cuff can be as a result of the following:
Tendinitis- The rotator cuff tendons can become irritated or damaged.
Bursitis- The bursa can become inflamed or swell with fluid.
Impingement- When you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the acromion and rotator cuff narrows. The acromion can rub against the tendon and the bursa, causing irritation and pain.
In most cases, initial treatment of rotator cuff injury is nonsurgical, including rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy and steroid injections. However, when non-surgical treatment fails to work, surgery is often recommended.
According to a recent article in the Independent, a quarter of adults have had shoulder pain in the last year, and shoulder impingement, also diagnosed as subacromial pain syndrome, accounts for 70% of cases. Persistent symptoms led to 21,000 surgeries in the UK in 2010 and cost the NHS more than £50m.
New evidence, however, suggests that subacromial decompression surgery, the most common shoulder pain surgery, has little benefit to a patient’s level of pain, movement or quality of life when compared to other approaches. The surgery is conducted to remove any swollen or inflamed bursa and bony spurs in order to open up the space in the shoulder and therefore ease pain and increase the range of movement. But with increasing evidence towards the harmful side effects of surgery as well as the cost to the NHS, including a major UK clinical trial in 2017, the BMJ guideline group has published new advice for doctors which makes a strong recommendation against surgery.
Frozen shoulder, or Adhesive capsulitis (AC), is one of the most common disorders of the shoulder and causes pain and loss of motion in the area. The condition is caused by scarring of the shoulder capsule, the thick lining of the shoulder joint. This can result in underuse of the affected side and leads to a progressive loss of function which can persist for years and may never fully resolve.
A variety of clinical conditions and diseases can contribute to the initiation of AC, including prolonged immobilisation of the shoulder for reasons including rotator cuff injuries, tendinitis and trauma, postsurgical intervention, acute fractures, missed fractures, exacerbation of cervical pain, pain after overuse, and medical conditions including diabetes.
To this date, a range of treatments have been developed to alleviate the pain caused by AC and increase range of motion in the shoulder, the most common of which is physical therapy. Other suggested options include chiropractic manipulation, corticosteroids through injection or tablets/creams, manipulation under general anaesthetic, scalene block, surgical intervention, and intraarticular injection of fluid volume.
Cryotherapy and shoulder injury
Every week we see the amazing results of our cryochamber on many of our customers’ shoulder pain and injury.
The cold in the chamber can anaesthetise the area in pain, meaning that the patient is better able to move the arm and shoulder. This joint mobilisation has been shown to improve the flow of synovial fluid to the joint, making it easier for the humerus to slide and move inside the shoulder socket.
This mobilisation can also break up scar tissue and adhesions, making it possible for the collagen fibers that make up the joint capsule to better line up, therefore improving the gliding of these fibers during movement.
It has also been shown that whole body cryotherapy increases the release of chemicals in the body such as norepinephrine, inhibiting proinflammatory responses and therefore reducing pain and inflammation.
In a randomised study, 30 individuals with Adhesive capsulitis engaged in either physical therapy treatment or standard therapy combined with whole body cryotherapy. The patients receiving the combination of cryotherapy and physical therapy achieved significant improvements of over 20% relative to the physical therapy group. There was a significant improvement in shoulder mobility, rotation and functionality.
We currently have a number of customers who come and use the chamber on a regular basis for their shoulder injuries:
Highly recommended. I tore my rotator cuff and had an impingement of the internal tendons in my bicep following a sports injury, which led on to a frozen shoulder. A year after referral to Physio (not successful) I was referred for steroid injections….the whole process has taken over a year and still no appointment. I was recommended Cryozone by a friend and after only 3 sessions I can’t believe the difference in mobility. For the past twelve months simple movements or sleep have been painful. I’m hoping that after a few more sessions I will be able to decline the painful steroid injections. Definitely worth every penny. – Dawn Ball