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The ‘Frozen’ Shoulder

Medically known as ‘Adhesive Capsulitis’, Frozen shoulder is a condition where the connective tissue that surrounds the shoulder to create the capsule becomes inflamed and therefore thus, tightens and can generate scarring to the tissue.

A thickening of the capsule due to the scar tissue limits the range of movement in the shoulder. As movement becomes reduced, the shoulder becomes stiff and painful and sometimes immobile – hence the term frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder usually occurs for no apparent reason, but can sometimes come after injury. Pain and discomfort usually goes but usually takes 2-3 years without treatment. Various treatments can improve movement and ease the pain in the shoulder.

Symptoms that present with a frozen shoulder can include pain and stiffness of the joint usually increased with movement of the joint. Overhead movements will present with high difficulty – especially tying up or washing hair, doing up a bra and putting on a jacket.

The symptoms occur gradually over time, however, stiffness and pain are common in many shoulder conditions, therefore you should see a practitioner if you get symptoms for a correct diagnosis.

There are usually three phases of symptoms for a frozen shoulder.  Freezing, Frozen, Thawing. Symptoms can interfere with work life in some cases and often affect everyday tasks.

Freezing – refers to the painful phase which can last anywhere between 2-9months treatment depending. Pain is the first symptom and then a gradual onset of stiffness and limitation in movement. The pain can be typically worsened when lying on affected side at night.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen – refers to the stiff (adhesive) phase which typically lasts 4-12 months depending on treatment. In this phase, the pain eases, however, the stiffness increases which affects all ranges of movement. Most affected is usually the rotation of the arm outwards. Muscles around the shoulder can become weak and may waste due to not being used.

Thawing – refers to the recovery phase in which the shoulder starts to recover, become looser and gradually movement returns. Full recovery can be seen 1 – 3 years of this phase.

Frozen shoulder can affect anyone but is most common in women between 40-65. If you have diabetes you can be more susceptible to such injuries due to the difference in your tissue. Therefore it can be more severe. You also are at higher risk if you have other health conditions including, Dupuytren’s contracture, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, thyroid disease, breast cancer, however the links to these conditions are still unknown. This is not a form of arthritis but can occur in both shoulders although the non-dominant is more common.

Unfortunately, with this condition, it is sometimes a waiting game for the inflammation to reduce, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help it to ease.

There are different treatment options for frozen shoulder including massage, physical therapy, corticosteroid injection and in some cases surgery.

All treatments used at NM Sports Therapy Clinic are based on the latest evidence in medicine and can be used in conjunction with many modalities.

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