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What Is a Frozen Shoulder and How Is It Treated?

What Is a Frozen Shoulder and How Is It Treated?

Have you recently been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder and looking to see how it’s going to be treated? Or, perhaps you think you may have a frozen shoulder and are doing a little bit of research to learn more about the ailment before heading to the orthopaedic surgeon.

Many times, people don’t pay attention to their joints until problems arise. Reaching for items on a shelf that’s over your head or just reaching up to brush your hair can sometimes cause sudden pain. 

This is especially a problem if you have had to refrain from doing anything that requires you to lift your arms above your head for some length of time. A possible cause for this pain is frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis. But what is frozen shoulder exactly? We’ll discuss that and how to treat the condition now.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is a common disorder that causes pain, loss of normal range of motion, and stiffness. 

Three bones make up your shoulder, these are the upper arm bone (humerus), your collarbone (clavicle), and your shoulder blade (scapula). The upper arm bone fits into a socket in your shoulder blade. 

The shoulder capsule is a strong connective tissue that surrounds the joint and rotator cuff tendons, and. Synovial fluid lubricates the joint and shoulder capsule and helps you move the shoulder easily. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens, constricting the joint and preventing movement. There is no clearly understood reason why this condition occurs.

The hallmark of this condition is severe pain and inability to move your shoulder. This disability can be serious, and it does tend to get worse with time if it’s not treated. 

Those over the age of 40 are most at risk, with women affected more often than men. People with diabetes are at increased risk for developing frozen shoulder. Those recovering from a medical condition or procedure that prevents them from moving the arm — such as a stroke or a mastectomy, are also at an increased risk of developing the condition.

Three Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Stage 1: Freezing

Pain increases during this stage and the shoulder loses its range of motion. Freezing can last from 6 weeks to 9 months.

Stage 2: Frozen

During this stage, painful symptoms may improve, but the stiffness remains. Daily activities during this time may be extremely difficult.

Stage 3: Thawing

During the thawing stage, shoulder movement may slowly improve. Complete recovery when strength and motion return is usually from 6 months to 2 years.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment

The main focus of treatment is controlling the pain and restoring motion, this can take up to 3 years, but there are some things you can do while you are healing. 

1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Medication

Taking medications like ibuprofen and aspirin will help reduce swelling and pain.

2. Steroid injection

Injecting a powerful steroid like cortisone directly into your shoulder joint is a treatment many doctors choose.

3. Physical therapy

There are exercises to help restore motion. They may be done with the supervision of a physical therapist or a home program. This therapy usually includes a range of motion exercises and stretching the shoulder. Heat can also be used during this therapy treatment. Here are some examples of exercises that might be suggested:

  • External rotation – passive stretch – While standing in a doorway, bend your arm’s elbow to 90 degrees to reach the door jamb, keeping your hand in place and rotating your body. Hold for 30 seconds, relax and repeat.
  • Crossover arm stretch – Slowly pull one arm across your chest until it is below your chin and without causing pain. Hold for 30 seconds, relax, repeat.
  • Forward flexion the supine position – While laying on your back with your legs straight, use your unaffected arm to lift the affected arm up and over your head until you feel a stretch. Hold for 15 seconds, slowly lower, relax, repeat.

Surgical Treatment

If symptoms are not made better by therapy and other methods, you may have to discuss surgery with your doctor. Surgery for frozen shoulder is normally offered during the frozen stage. The goal is to release the stiffened joint capsule. This can be done while under anesthesia and with shoulder arthroscopy.

  • Manipulation under anesthesia –While you are asleep, your doctor will force your shoulder to move, causing the scar tissue to tear or stretch. This will increase the range of motion.
  • Shoulder arthroscopy – During this procedure, your doctor will make an incision through the tight portions of the joint capsule with a pencil-sized instrument inserted through the incision around your shoulder. Most often, one or both of these methods are used to get maximum results. The outcome for most patients is usually good.

Recovery From Surgery

Once the surgery is over, physical therapy is necessary to maintain the motion, and recovery time could be from six weeks to three months. Even though this is a slow process, if you stay committed to therapy, you should recover quickly.

You Don’t Have To Suffer Shoulder Pain

Frozen shoulder can be incredibly painful and debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re suffering from joint pain or joint injury, you need to see a health professional right away for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment so you can get back to living your life pain-free.

Our sports medicine specialists and surgeons at Thunder Basin Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine are highly experienced, offering the best possible care and treatment to all our patients. We specialize in sports medicine, joint replacement, treatment and care for fractures and traumatic injuries, and minimally invasive surgery. 

Call us now to schedule a consultation. We’ll get you back on your feet as soon as possible.