Frozen Shoulder & Menopause: Are They Connected?
What is a frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is a condition caused by inflammation in the shoulder muscles and joints that limits the range of motion and is often accompanied by pain or stiffness. People with frozen shoulders describe the process as having three stages:
- Stiffening, the onset phase with the most pain.
- Frozen, when the shoulder completely loses mobility.
- Thawing, the final phase when inflammation goes down and mobility is restored.
In parts of China and Japan, frozen shoulder is called the “fifties shoulder” because it most commonly occurs in women as they approach menopause. However, there is no causative link between menopause and a frozen shoulder, only correlative. Sometimes it is the result of a previous injury, while for others, a frozen shoulder flares up without warning. For some women, the dip in estrogen that comes with menopause leaves them more susceptible to inflammation. Since it’s difficult to predict whether or not to expect a frozen shoulder through your menopause experience, it helps to be proactive in prevention.
Frozen Shoulder Prevention: Three Things You Can Do
- Posture Evaluation
Not to bring up memories of your mother scolding you to “stand up straight,” but there is a good chance that your posture is not as good as you think it is. As you may remember, proper posture places your head centered above your shoulders and the top of your shoulder should be over the hips.
How is your posture right now? Are you leaning back in your chair or hunched over your phone? Chances are however you’re sitting isn’t straight up and relaxed. You’re probably putting undue stress on your back, neck, and shoulders. It’s not your fault. Years of sitting behind desks and an increasingly screen-focused culture have wrecked our posture. But now is as good a time as ever to correct that for your benefit.
A doctor or physiotherapist can conduct a posture evaluation to observe your shoulder position, knee interspace, ankle position, and the overall symmetry of the body. After the evaluation, they can help with corrections, prescribe braces, and suggest exercises that improve your posture and prevent the occurrence of a frozen shoulder in the future.
- Exercise & Stretching
The least surprising way to prevent a frozen shoulder is to keep those joints and muscles strong and healthy through regular exercise and stretching. Now it is more important than ever to not skip arm day. Furthermore, when you are working on your arm and shoulder muscles, never work out a muscle group without completing an equal exercise on its complimentary group. If you work your triceps, also work your biceps. If you lift for your shoulders, complete an equal number of reps for your chest. And so on, and so on.
Furthermore, don’t forget to stretch after working your muscles. Not stretching allows excess lactic acid to build up in your muscles, risking pain and tension. In addition to stretching after your exercise sessions, consider adding activities that involve gentle and prolonged stretching and movement like yoga. Taking time out to stretch and breathe not only keeps your shoulder muscles flexible, but it’s good for your mental health as well.
3.Rest & Relaxation
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is an idea that excess chi from negative emotions causes the body to hunch and stiffen in a defensive position, leading to tension and inflammation in the shoulder(s). Whether or not you adhere to TCM teachings, there’s little doubt that our emotions can impact our physical health. Many of us have experienced tension in our necks and shoulders as a reaction to stress or despair. So, it’s important to prioritize time to rest, relax, and recharge for our emotional and physical well-being. No, taking a coffee break without screentime won’t be enough to completely prevent a frozen shoulder if symptoms are onset, but making it a priority to balance your life with plenty of relaxation can support your health holistically so you’re less likely to trigger inflammation.