Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis in medical jargon, is a painful condition that gradually limits the range of motion (ROM) of the shoulder joint.
In my clinical experience, most of my patients complained of interrupted sleep during the progression of the disease, and several claimed they woke up in the middle of the night looking for some way to ease the pain.
In this article, I will discuss the potential benefits of using a massage gun in both the early and advanced stages of the disease and discuss how a massage gun can reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the outcome of treatment.
What is a Massage Gun and How can it Reduce or Improve Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder?
A massage gun is a hand-held device that delivers high-frequency percussive waves to a target area, intending to improve local blood flow, reduce pain and fatigue by hitting a target spot thousands of times per minute.
Because of that, the use of massage guns is extremely popular both in clinical settings and among the athletic population.
One fact attributing to the subjective positive effects of massage guns earlier on in the disease stages is that, with any kind of massage therapy: the release of endogenous opiates such as endorphins inhibits the perception of pain.
Secondly, frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by the formation of adhesions in the shoulder capsule which significantly impacts your range of motion in advanced stages.
Using a massage gun at this point can provide a sustained vibratory motion which can break down these adhesive fibers resulting in improvement in the range of motion of the shoulder joint .
This is like being treated by an electro-therapeutic modality such as ultrasound in a clinic or being given manual mobilizations at the shoulder joint by your physical therapist.
Check out the results of one scientific study which demonstrated increases in
the range of motion of foot muscles after treatment by a percussion massager.
|Percussive Massage Treatment Group||Control Group (which did not receive percussive massage treatment)|
|Pre Treatment||Post Treatment||Pre Treatment||Post Treatment|
|Range of Motion (°)||29.30±6.53||34.70±7.38||30.9±8.9||32.53±9.73|
Can you use a massage gun independently at home?
As easy as it may seem to order a massage gun online and start using it in the comfort of your home, it is not advisable to use any therapeutic modality without consulting your physician.
Many patients have complained that their pain got worse after using a massage gun instead of getting better.
One reason for being very considerate of using a massage gun at home is that you should know the exact location of the adhesion where to apply the pressure from the gun which, your primary care physician, can locate better.
Secondly, people who are suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes should consult their doctor before trying the home sessions on their own. There was also one life-threatening case reported of rhabdomyolysis after the use of a massage gun. 
However, if your therapist or physician has assessed your condition and he/she does not advise you against using a massage gun on your shoulder; it is probably safe for you to get one.
How to use a massage gun effectively for frozen shoulder?
Assuming that your therapist or physician has assessed your condition, here are a few things that you should keep in mind while using a massage gun at home.
During the initial stages of Frozen Shoulder, it is better to use a massage gun intermittently (i.e. apply it for 30 seconds on one point and then move it to another point and then repeat it).
Clinically, it has been observed that in the majority of the cases, the anterior part of the shoulder capsule is affected more with adhesions and hence it is advised to use a massage gun in that specific area.
In other cases, another anatomical site called the rotator cuff interval  which is rough; a triangular space between the highest point of your collar bone and the shoulder joint is also the origin of your problem.
It is also effective to use a massage gun around this area because in many instances this area is prone to contractures in adhesive capsulitis.
Always let your shoulder joint loose and practice deep breathing before your start your home treatment session.
Use the Massage gun in a gliding manner with a light hand.
In the advanced stages of Frozen Shoulder, a more sustained application without any rest interval is required to break the adhesion. At this stage, it is important to localize and give point pressure from the gun at the affected area.
A thorough physical therapy assessment can better reveal which area needs the most attention and help you decide where to place the massage gun for a better prognosis.
However, a massage gun can be quite intensive, and it is advisable not to use it on the same area for more than two minutes as the experience might be very painful and this can cause more harm than recovery.
The bottom line
So, can a Massage Gun benefit people who suffer from Frozen Shoulder?
Yes, as long as you use it properly.
If you are looking for a device to help you manage your symptoms of frozen shoulder; then a massage gun may be a great option for you because of all the potential benefits it can offer.
And it does make sense. Instead of waking up in the middle of the night, finding your shoulder frozen to death, and looking for painkillers in your drawer, you can simply use a massage that not only targets pain receptors in the shoulder joint but also snaps those adhesive fibers, gluing the shoulder joint.
And all that increases range of motion so you could change your clothes in the morning on your own, instead of asking someone for help.
However, in certain cases or in cases of misuse, massage guns can worsen your frozen shoulder and are not recommended for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
So, you should always let your physician assess your condition completely first and then ask him/her whether it is okay for you to use a massage gun.
Dr. Mariam, a certified physical therapist, and recreation specialist. She has been investigating the effects of various kinds of massage in her career and believes that educating people is one of the most important aspects of her job.