Frozen Shoulder or Adhesive Capsulitis is a condition of the shoulder joint that leads to pain and stiffness in the shoulder. It can take from 1-3 years to heal completely. Your shoulder is composed of three main bones. The humerus (upper arm), scapula (shoulder blade), clavicle (collar bone) and the surrounding tissue provide the arm its mobility and function. All of them form the shoulder capsule. With adhesive capsulitis the shoulder capsule becomes so thick and stiff that it is difficult to move it.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
- Dull achy pain in one shoulder
- Pain in shoulder muscles around the top of your arm
- Upper arm pain
- Intensity of pain increases at night
Stages of Adhesive Capsulitis
- Freezing: Pain is experienced when you try to move the shoulder in this stage. It may hurt more at night. This stage can last from 6-9 months.
- Frozen: Moving the shoulder becomes increasingly difficult in this level. You may not be able to get through your daily activities. Pain medications can help with the pain but the stiffness gets worse. This stage may extend from 4-12 months.
- Thawing: This marks an improvement in the functions of the shoulder. OTC pain medicines can help with pain and inflammation. Physical therapy in the presence of a trained therapist can help you to regain the range of motion. Effects of physical therapy may be more at this stage than in other stages. In more intense cases your doctor may prefer corticosteroid injections or joint distention. Surgical procedures are very rarely required for a frozen shoulder.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
There are a number of conditions that can act in combination to cause frozen shoulder:
- Inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of capsule around the shoulder
- Bursitis, rotator cuff injury, and tendinitis
- Diabetes, chronic arthritis, post surgery
- Long term immobility
Treatment of Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder can be treated by treating the underlying cause of the frozen shoulder. Depending on the cause of frozen shoulder, one should approach the treatment options. There are a number of therapies and treatment options one can opt for to treat the pain and inflammation caused by frozen shoulder.
- Hot and Cold Therapy – Hot and cold therapy is majorly used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Heat therapy is known to help muscles regain strength and restore their activity.
- Exercise Therapy – Exercise therapy helps in not only improving the strength of the muscles but also relieve pain and inflammation of the muscles. Multiple exercise therapy options such as pulleys, exercise cords, exercise stations, etc.
- Shoulder CPM – Continuous passive motion or CPM techniques are used to restore the normal function of a joint. Shoulder CPM helps in reducing the effects of frozen shoulder by restoring range of motion and alleviating pain.
- Shoulder Supports – Shoulder supports such as slings, stabilizers, immobilizers help in immobilizing the shoulder, providing gentle compression and preventing further injuries to the shoulder. They also help in relieving pain.
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Frequently asked questions
Frozen Shoulder also known as shoulder contracture or adhesive capsulitis shoulder is a medical condition in which patients experience pain and stiffness of the shoulder which may worsen with time. In the most severe cases, a sufferer is unable to move their shoulder at all.
Frozen shoulder commonly a result of the thickening and inflammation of the flexible tissue that encapsulates the joint of the shoulder. Also causes include previous shoulder surgery or shoulder injury, health conditions such as a stroke or heart disease, diabetes or a condition called Dupuytrens contracture, where small lumps created by thickened tissue appear in the fingers and hands.
Recovery period after a frozen shoulder surgery vary from 6 weeks to three months.
The course of a frozen shoulder have three stages:
- Stage one: The ""freezing"" or painful stage, this stage may last from six weeks to nine months, and in this the patient has a slow onset of pain. As the pain worsens, the shoulder motion is restricted.
- Stage two: The ""frozen"" or adhesive stage by this stage there is slow improvement in pain but the stiffness remains. This stage lasts from four to nine months.
- Stage three: The ""thawing"" or recovery, in this stage shoulder motion slowly returns toward normal. This generally lasts from 5 to 26 months.
A shoulder support is a common treatment given to patients with frozen shoulder. Painkillers provide temporarily pain relief, whereas a support will ensure that the pressure and wear and tear on the area is minimized. Physiotherapy and gentle exercise may also be recommended in an effort to strengthen the shoulder and thus alleviate the pain.