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  • Writer's pictureDr. AJ Gagliardi

Frozen Shoulder Treatment Yields Positive Results

I woke one morning in late April 2013 feeling like i had slept on my shoulder wrong, it just wasn’t “right”. I waited a while to see if it would improve, but it did not. When I could finally figure out where the pain emanated from   I made an appointment with a shoulder doc and got an appointment in early June. I was diagnosed with impingement and sent to physical therapy. After an assessment and 5 therapy sessions I had some improvement and I was discharged from PT.

Through all this, I had been doing quite a bit of Tai Chi. I had hourly classes twice a week, and as part of a competition team I had team practice for two hours once a week. In addition I was practicing the competition routine daily for at least a half hour to an hour on my own. But even with all that exercise and movement, I noticed my ROM was slowly degrading.

After the competition, my time spent practicing tai chi was reduced to my two one hour classes, and the pain increased, and ROM plummeted. I went back to the shoulder doc. Now I was diagnosed with “frozen shoulder” or adhesive capsulitis. I was given a cortisone shot and sent back to physical therapy. The cortisone shot gave me a little relief, it lasted maybe a week.

I had physical therapy twice a week beginning in early November 2013 until early January 2014. At my January doctor appointment, he wanted to discuss doing MUA (Manipulation Under Anesthesia) followed by intensive PT. Intensive PT was explained as 5 days a week for 2 weeks, 3 days a week for 2 weeks, then once a week until I was discharged. Knowing that my Insurance company only pays for 20 sessions a year, I didn’t want to continue PT now, using up my allowed sessions, then have to pay full price for the sessions I would need after MUA, should I go that route. I was not yet convinced I wanted to do MUA; I needed to do a bit more research and ask more questions.

I came up with a plan, and ran it past my doctor, who approved of the plan. To save sessions, I wanted to continue my PT at home, on my own, maybe with a monthly visit to PT, so someone could monitor my progress, or lack thereof. I would purchase my own equipment, but just asked to be monitored by my therapist, and I would pay for it, and not bill insurance. Unfortunately, the therapy office said that was not possible. I could not self-pay until my insurance company denied me sessions. I would have to use up my sessions before I could self-pay. I decided I could not afford to do that.

I purchased similar equipment to what I was using at PT. I purchased and arm bike, an over the door pulley system, and a finger ladder, and I purchased a good sturdy rope from a hardware store. My therapist gave me all various level resistance bands and printouts of the exercises he wanted me to do now, and as I started to thaw. I went home to do my own PT.

Also, somewhere in this time frame, on a Facebook “frozen shoulder” support group, I heard about a shoulder yoga DVD with exercises to maintain a healthy shoulder. Found it, purchased it, as well as a couple of books on shoulder exercises. I did my PT daily, still hoping for the thaw to begin. In the meantime, I continued doing my Tai Chi daily, and even added a Tai Chi Sword Class. My doc approved, though he did warn me it would hurt, but he would not forbid me from taking the class.

In March of 2014 a friend told me of Dr. Gagliardi, and how he had helped a friend of hers to avoid shoulder surgery. I checked his website, and read about ART (Active Release Therapy). I contacted him asking if he thought he could help me. After our discussion, I made an appointment.

Before I could get to that appointment, one night at tai chi, doing an exercise we call Bone Marrow Washing, I felt a snap in my bad shoulder. Bracing myself for the expected pain, one of those “we” on the Facebook page call “zingers”, I was amazed that it did not hurt. Over the next few days, anytime I moved that arm beyond what had become my now normal reduced range, I would feel popping or snapping by no zingers, no intense pain. And my ROM started to increase.

I called Dr. Gagliardi and he encouraged me to keep the appointment. He said we would know within a 2 to 3 sessions whether he could help me or not. I kept the appointment and was so glad I did. I went from appointments every 2 weeks, then once a month, then once every two months, then every three months. According to Dr. Gagliardi, I now have about 98% of my ROM back. I continue my exercises, hoping to get it all back. I am very glad this journey is over or almost over.

I am so thankful for Dr. Gagliardi and the ART work we have done. I know it has greatly helped me with my progression.

– Jill C


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