Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is a medical condition characterized by chronic pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder develops when the tissues in the shoulder capsule become thicker and tighter. The scar tissue develops gradually over time and reduces the space required for shoulder joint to rotate properly. The swelling and pain in the shoulder hamper the range of motion which makes day to day life harder for patients with frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder typically takes around 1 to 3 years to heal completely.
Frozen shoulder is more likely to occur in people who have diabetes or had prolonged immobility or reduced mobility of the shoulder for a long period, such as after surgery, stroke or an arm injury.
Chronic pain and stiffness in the shoulder are the major symptoms of frozen shoulder. For some people, the shoulder pain worsens at night. People usually feel the pain in the shoulder muscles that wrap around the upper arm.
Frozen shoulder develops gradually in three stages. Each has its own unique symptoms and can last for a number of weeks.
Frozen shoulder usually occurs after a long period of immobility due to a shoulder injury. After a shoulder injury, it is best to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about shoulder exercises that you can do to maintain the range of motion in your shoulder joint. Most frozen shoulder treatment aims at reducing shoulder pain and improving range of motion to recover mobility.
Rehab therapy exercises for shoulders such as shoulder pulleys stimulates muscles and increase the range of motion.
Wearing shoulder supports or immobilizers after shoulder injury can prevent frozen shoulder. The shoulder supports relieve pain on the joint capsule, muscles, and tendons. While supporting and reinforcing the arm, it safely immobilizes the shoulder joint. It promotes faster healing by keeping the shoulder in an ideal rest position which promotes blood circulation to the rotator cuff and reduces risk of frozen shoulder. The shoulder support sling evenly disperses the weight of an arm onto both shoulders, which reduces the risk of straining shoulder or neck.
It is a common misconception that applying heat to frozen shoulder is a good idea. As a matter of fact, it is another way around. Frozen shoulder responds better to cold therapy than heat therapy. Ice packs and cold therapy systems can help reduce the chronic pain and swelling associated with frozen shoulder. Patients suffering from frozen shoulder are often recommended cold therapy by their physical therapists along with rehabilitation exercises like targeted stretching, strengthening exercises and massage therapy.
For pain relief, people prefer topical pain relievers over oral painkillers for the fear of complications like a drug overdose, addiction, and other harmful side effects. These topical analgesic pain relief products contain ingredients like Menthol and Camphor to provide quick relief from chronic shoulder pain and muscle aches using pain gate phenomenon of cold therapy.
TENS and EMS units are efficient electrotherapy products used to relieve pain, ease muscle tension and stiffness in people with frozen shoulders. They also help in the stimulation, contraction, and relaxation of muscle fibers, increase blood flow and encourage muscle growth. The TENS unit delivers a small electrical current to key points on a nerve pathway which stimulates the release of pain-inhibiting molecules known as endorphins to block pain signals from reaching the brain.
Acupuncture is performed by inserting extremely fine needles at specific points on your body, it is considered an effective frozen shoulder therapy. Acupuncture provides pain relief by boosting the endorphins level in the body which reduce the perception of pain. Acupuncture enhances the blood flow in the arteries which in turn helps treat and ease the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Acupuncture therapy thus reduces shoulder pain and increases a range of motion in the rotator cuff region. It is best to choose a licensed and certified acupuncture therapist for proper treatment.
If the symptoms of frozen shoulder deteriorate and none of the treatments and physical therapy work, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue and adhesions from inside your shoulder joint. Surgery for frozen shoulder is however very rare. For the frozen shoulder that has occurred due to an injury, surgery is usually more successful if it’s performed within a few weeks of the injury. Most patients recover their full range of motion back within two to three months of surgery.
There are many other conditions that can affect the shoulder and proper diagnosis of frozen shoulder is crucial. Consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any of the treatment and therapy methods.
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