What is Frozen Shoulder?
The medical term for Frozen Shoulder is Adhesive Capsulitis. The best way to think of this is to think of an accordion. When the accordion is made smaller it has all those folds in it. That’s what the shoulder joint does when it’s down at your side. The shoulder is a synovial joint, meaning that the entire joint is encased in a cartilaginous capsule that allows for a lot of motion. When your arm is down at your side, all of that tissue on the underside of the shoulder joint folds up. When you raise your shoulder all of those folds flatten out, allowing the shoulder to raise.
When the shoulder freezes, all of those folds start sticking together (adhering to one another) and they no longer unfold. When this happens, pain is present when you try to raise your arm. However, the worst thing you could do is not move the arm because it hurts. Frozen shoulder generally affects more women than men aged 40 to 60.
What are Frozen Shoulder Causes?
The causes of frozen shoulder can be a traumatic event or idiopathic, or there may be simply no known cause. When a direct cause is known, it is important to treat any underlying condition that exists that may have led to a Frozen Shoulder. The causes of a Frozen Shoulder may be:
- Prior surgery in the area, such as a mastectomy
- Prior surgery directly on the shoulder that was not fully rehabilitated
- Previous fracture to the upper arm
- Any other medical condition that prevents you from moving your arm, such as a stroke
- Trauma to the area from a car or motorcycle accident
- Frozen Shoulder is correlated with having other conditions such as Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and heart and thyroid Disease
- In some case of an otherwise healthy individual, there is not a known cause
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Symptoms of a Frozen Shoulder
The symptoms of a Frozen Shoulder can be very dramatic. There are considered to be three stages of a Frozen Shoulder which all have individual symptoms:
- Freezing Stage: significant pain, which is usually worse at night, is felt when moving the shoulder and slight noticeable loss of range of motion. The freezing stage will generally continue for 6 to 9 months
- Frozen stage: the pain experienced may begin to lessen in this stage, but the loss of range of motion of the shoulder increases dramatically. The frozen stage generally lasts 4 to 6 months
- Thawing stage: in this stage you range of motion will improve, but most likely not completely and medical intervention will be necessary. The thawing stage usually lasts 6 months to 2 years
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How to Fix Frozen shoulder | Treatments
Physical therapy is key to treating this condition. While it is possible for Adhesive Capsulitis to resolve on its own, this takes years. Seeking treatment from a physical therapist working in conjunction with your doctor can significantly speed up recovery by teaching you the proper stretches that are needed, strengthening appropriate muscles and offering pain relieving modalities to mitigate the inevitable pain that will be experienced when working through this process. More than 90% of people get better with conservative treatment.
Pain killers, NSAIDs, steroid injections may all be considered as well.
If you are in the unlucky 10% that do not improve with conservative measures, there is a surgery called a manipulation that may be considered. A manipulation consists of taking the shoulder joint gently through its range of motion while under anesthesia. An arthroscopic procedure may also be indicated in order to break up any scar tissue that may be in the area.