Frozen shoulder is a condition that causes global pain and stiffness around the shoulder joint. It’s also known as ‘adhesive capsulitis’. This issue affects most commonly those who are between the age of 40 to 60 and occurs more in women than in men, people who are diabetic are also at further risk of developing frozen shoulder. The shoulder is made up of 3 main bones that create the ball and socket joint known as the glenohumeral joint. The head of the upper arm bone (humerus) fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade. Surrounding this joint is a capsule made of strong connective tissue to help protect the joint.
When frozen shoulder occurs the capsule that surrounds the joint thickens and becomes overly stiff and tight, with this comes reduction of synovial fluid which lubricates the joint to encourage smooth movement.
The symptoms of this condition are, severe pain and the inability to move the shoulder either on your own or with someone trying to move the shoulder for you. Most commonly the symptoms develop in 3 stages.
Freezing phase – in this phase you will slowly develop increased symptoms of pain and stiffness and gradually loose more and more movement at the joint over a period of 6 weeks to 9 months.
Frozen phase – at this stage you may start to see a decrease in pain although the stiffness at the joints will still be present. This stage causes activities of daily living to be widely affected it normally last between 4-6 months.
Thawing phase – within this stage of the injury the range of motion should slowly begin to return. This phase can last from 6 months to 2 years.
The underlying cause of frozen shoulder is still unknown. Although there are to be some risk factors that can increase the chance of you suffering with frozen shoulder. The best advice is to seek medical advice from a physiotherapist quickly on experiencing the symptoms.
Frozen shoulder unlike most injuries has to run its course before it can begin to improve. A combination of the following may reduce pain levels and the time it takes to recover.
- Medication – To try to reduce the level of pain and joint inflammation you doctor may advise that you use anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. As well as/or a steroid injection to aim to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Physiotherapy – this is the most common type of treatment for frozen shoulder. The aim of this is to stretch the shoulder capsule and regain the lost motion. A home exercise program would be given to strengthen and stretch the shoulder joint.
- Surgery – surgery is an alternative option if your condition doesn’t improve with physiotherapy and self-management. The surgery involves two options one is arthroscopic surgery to remove scar tissue or a manipulation procedure to move the shoulder through its entire movement to free up any tightness.