Treating A Shoulder Misdiagnosis Through Chiropractic
December 5, 2021


Many years ago, I injured my back helping someone lift heavy tree branches. I suffered for a few days and was in an antalgic position. I went to a chiropractor and three visits later I felt great! And there and then I decided to become a chiropractor. I wanted to use chiropractic to help others and I will share a particular story about a patient of mine who had a bad shoulder problem.

I have been a chiropractor for forty years now, and the premise behind chiropractic is that muscles stiffen and tighten and a bone will move out of alignment. This causes decrease circulation to the body, especially in the problem area. The patient then exhibits discomforts like stiffness, tightness, pain and decreased motion in that area.

Case study

In the last few years, I have been working in a large medical clinic and the patients have been able to receive the benefits of the interdisciplinary approach to health. A good example of this is the lady with the possible “frozen shoulder” diagnosis that I ended up treating through chiropractic.

A primary healthcare provider’s office called me one day. She told me she had been treating this patient who was in the room with us for a few months.

They had gone through the usual treatment of stretches and physical therapy and even done an injection into this shoulder. Still, the patient could not lift the right shoulder over 50% in any of the ranges of motion and she had pain in the neck and numbness and tingling in both arms.

As with all insurances, you can see only one doctor in a day. The primary physician had not treated her patient yet and asked if I could fit her into my schedule and treat the patient that day. I was happy to do so!


The patient was a 33-year-old female who had the aforementioned signs and symptoms. X-rays revealed that there was no degeneration in the neck and that the shoulder was normal as well. I examined the patient and found the areas of stiffness and tightness in the spine.

These were in the upper thoracic area, the base of the neck and the base of the skull. My working diagnosis was that if nothing showed up wrong with the shoulder, then maybe we had a spinal problem.

The Brachial Plexus of nerves comes out of the neck from C5-T1 and this could cause the patient’s problems. I felt that this was the case because she had numbness and tingling in both arms, which suggests not an arm or shoulder problem but a neck problem.

I adjusted the neck and laid the patient face up and did extension stretches to the neck. The patient got up and felt much better with alleviation of symptoms in both arms and the neck.

I had her lift her arm and to her surprise; she had a full range of motion in the shoulder. This, of course, showed that the original working diagnosis of “frozen shoulder” was incorrect, happy for the patient.

We gave her chiropractic treatments bimonthly after that and her shoulder problems dissipated.

What did we learn

Two things of importance here! We should note that problems in extremities, like arms and shoulders and legs and knees, can often be caused by spinal problems and a chiropractor can help determine that. Also, it should be noted that this patient had no degenerative problems in the neck as the x-rays showed and that is why she responded so quickly and favorably. In someone with arthritic changes, it would have been a different story.

Joseph Giliberto, DC

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