Frozen Shoulder

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen-shoulder is also called adhesive capsulitis and is a condition featuring pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. People with specific medical conditions are prone to develop this condition. The symptoms worsen initially and improve over time but recovering fully may take about two to three years.

The condition affects people in the age group of forty to sixty years and occurs more often in women than men. Those suffering from this condition have a thick shoulder that becomes stiff and tight. Moreover, the lack of synovial fluid does not lubricate the joint adequately and makes the capsule hard to move. Motion is severely restricted in adhesive capsulitis.

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Frozen-shoulder is also called adhesive capsulitis and is a condition featuring pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. People with specific medical conditions are prone to develop this condition.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder:

The primary symptoms of adhesive capsulitis are pain and stiffness that retards movement. It also pains in one shoulder or the shoulder muscles surrounding the top of the arm. The upper arm also feels achy. The following are the symptoms of different phases of the condition.

Freezing stage:

  • In the freezing stage, the pain is constant and usually severe during movement.
  • That pain worsens with tie and may increase during the night
  • The freezing stage usually lasts for six to nine months
  • Shoulder movement at this stage is restricted

Frozen stage:

  • In this stage, the pain reduces to a certain extent, but the area is severely stiff.
  • The shoulder movement during this stage is tough, and continuing with daily activities becomes challenging.
  • It lasts for about four months to a year.

Thawing stage:

  • The motion starts becoming normal at this stage
  • It lasts for about six months to two years.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder:

The ligaments, bones, and tendons present in the shoulder joint stay inside a capsule comprising connective tissues. People suffering from frozen shoulders have a thick and tight capsule, restricting the movement of shoulders. The doctors aren’t sure why some people develop adhesive capsulitis. However, certain medical conditions, such as heart and thyroid diseases, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, are more likely to lead to this condition. About ten to twenty percent of the population suffering from diabetes has adhesive capsulitis.

When to See a Physiotherapist for Frozen Shoulder:

When you experience stiffness or pain in the shoulder and have a few risks factors, it is necessary to visit a physical therapist. The following are the reasons.

  • To start exercises and manual therapy
  • For using modalities to help relax the muscles
  • Learning home exercises
  • To improve the knowledge of stretching techniques
  • Beginning with strengthening exercises
  • Resuming physical activities and work

People suffering from diabetes mellitus and experiencing pain and stiffness in the shoulders must also consult with a physical therapist.

Risks of Frozen Shoulders:

Women are more likely to develop adhesive capsulitis when the soft tissue forming a protective capsule around the shoulder becomes thick and swells. It also causes scar tissue to form, causing difficulty in the movement of the upper arm. Therefore, the condition restricts the movement of the shoulder and causes immense pain. However, young men and women without any risk factors can also develop frozen shoulders. People with this condition experience shoulder pain, loss of mobility, reduced motion, and muscle problems for a long time.

How to Prevent Frozen Shoulder?

Motion exercises from gentle to progressive, stretching, and using the shoulder more often can prevent adhesive capsulitis. The following exercises can help.

  • Towel stretch
  • Pendulum stretch
  • Cross-body reach
  • Outward and inward rotation
  • Finger walk
  • Armpit stretch

If you have an injury that makes shoulder movement tough, you must talk to your doctor about the exercises that can help maintain the motion range in the shoulder joint.

Treatments of Frozen Shoulder:

The OTC non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs can help in improving pain and inflammation in the shoulder. It might also include visiting a physiotherapist for beginning strengthening and stretching exercises. The following are the treatments.

  • Using corticosteroid injections

The doctors administer this injection in the shoulder joint for pain relief and improve the motion.

  • Physiotherapy

Physical therapy is useful for specific stages of adhesive capsulitis. The therapy includes motion exercises for the shoulder and stretching. Often, the therapists apply heat to loosen the muscles of the shoulder before stretching.

  • Joint distension

In this method, the doctors inject sterile water into the shoulder capsule to stretch it easily and aids in a smoother movement of the shoulder.

  • Surgery

Surgery is the last resort option for treating adhesive capsulitis and may help when all the other treatment options fail. It is an arthroscopic procedure requiring specialized tools inserted into the shoulder through small cuts.

Related conditions:

Adhesive capsulitis is associated with several other symptoms, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes mellitus, neurosurgery, stroke, and trauma in the upper limb when the condition lasts longer. Although the pathology of frozen shoulders is debatable, inflammation may exist in the initial stage, resulting in fibrosis. A professional physical therapist can best handle the symptoms of physiotherapy and provides relief from pain and stiffness.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the fastest method of treating frozen shoulder?
Treating adhesive capsulitis through physical therapy is one of the quickest methods to treat the condition. There are evidence-based research to prove that physiotherapy makes the shoulder more easily and reduces pain.
2. What happens when a frozen shoulder is left untreated?
Not treating the condition can lead to further complications, such as complete loss of mobility, reduced motion, and severe pain.
3. Does adhesive capsulitis cause pain all the time?
Pain can develop at any time and become serious when you move it, and the condition worsens over time and hurts more at night.
4. What is the difference between frozen shoulder and torn rotator cuff?
In a torn rotator cuff, you experience restricted motion within the arm’s range but lift it easily. On the other hand, adhesive capsulitis limits the motion range and makes the arm difficult to lift.

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