What is Frozen Shoulder?

frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder is also referred to as adhesive capsulitis and results in stiffness and pain in a person’s shoulder. It can make the shoulder become very difficult to move over time. Frozen shoulder can take several years to recover from after a phase of extreme symptoms. There are various treatments available for a frozen shoulder that are highly recommended.

Tips For Frozen Shoulder

Causes & Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Doctors are not really sure what causes frozen shoulder. However, they do know that there is no relation between occupation or arm dominance. There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder including:

  • Diabetes- Many people that have diabetes also have frozen shoulders for unknown reasons. Additionally, diabetics with frozen shoulders experience a greater worsening of symptoms before the “thawing” phase.
  • Immobilization- If your shoulder has been immobilized for a long period of time following an injury, fracture, or surgery. It is important for individuals to move their shoulders immediately following an injury or surgery to help prevent it from occurring.
  • Other diseases- Additional medical issues such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, cardiac disease, and Parkinson’s disease are associated with frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder symptoms usually cause an aching or dull pain. It normally worsens at the start of the disease when you first attempt to move your arm. The pain is typically noticed over the outer shoulder area and sometimes the upper arm.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will begin by examining your shoulder after discussing your medical history and symptoms with you. To see if the movement is limited and if you experience pain with certain movements, your doctor will move your shoulder carefully in different directions. Individuals that have frozen shoulders have a limited range of motion.

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There are certain tests that can help your doctor rule out other causes of pain and stiffness such as x-rays and MRIs.  Since frozen shoulder typically gets better over time, treatment is not extensive but can take up to 3 years. The goal of treatment is to control pain and restore mobility and strength via physical therapy.

Other treatment options for frozen shoulder include:

  • NSAIDs- Medications including ibuprofen and aspirin can help control swelling and pain.
  • Steroid injections-Cortisone injections are powerful and are injected right into the joint in your shoulder.
  • Physical therapy- Certain exercises will help restore your mobility and range of motion. These can either be done with a physical therapist or through a home program.
  • Hydrodilatation- If you don’t experience relief of symptoms following nonsurgical methods, this treatment option may be recommended. It involves an injection of fluid right into your shoulder joint to help stretch and expand the shoulder joint capsule.

Following physical therapy, it is important to maintain the same mobility that you achieved with surgery. Recovery times for frozen shoulder can take anywhere from 6 weeks to several months. It is a relatively slow process but with a commitment to treatment, you can get back to enjoying all the activities that you enjoy.Incorporating exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff can be beneficial in maintaining and improving shoulder mobility during the recovery process.

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