A common condition of the shoulder joints, frozen shoulder occurs because of adhesive capsulitis. It limits your movement of the shoulder and can become very painful in the long run. Why does frozen shoulder occur? What are the symptoms and how can you treat it in a manner that is effective and lasting? All these questions are answered below.
Read on to find out more.
Why does Frozen Shoulder Occur?
Your shoulder joint is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissues. When these capsules thicken and become tight, then they cause difficulty in moving the joint. Hence the reason that frozen shoulder results. Researchers are still perplexed why this happens, but they theorize that people who have had immobilized shoulders or some medical condition like diabetes are more likely to suffer from it.
Some risk factors that up your likelihood of having a frozen shoulder include:
- People over the age of 40, mostly women, are inclined to suffer from a frozen shoulder
- Diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, and TB increase the chances of developing frozen shoulder
- The reduced motion of the shoulder joint due to stroke, some surgery, a broken arm or rotator cuff injury can lead to a frozen shoulder
Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
The most obvious signs of having a frozen shoulder are pain and inability to move the shoulder joint properly. There are three stages to the development of a frozen shoulder:
- Freezing, the stage where pain gradually increases. This also reduces your range of motion and can last anywhere between 6 weeks to 9 months.
- Frozen, even though pain reduces in this stage, moving the shoulder and hand becomes even more difficult. Daily life chores become painful.
- Thawing is the stage where the frozen shoulder recovers. It can take anywhere from 6 months to 2-3 years. Pain decreases and the patient can recover the use of their arm and shoulder.
If you feel that you may suffer from a frozen shoulder, then you need to get in touch with your doctor immediately. Only they will be able to diagnose your symptoms accurately.
The first thing your doctor will do when you go for treatment options is that s/he will do a physical exam where they will check the range of motion of your shoulder and arm. Sometimes an x-ray, MRI or an ultrasound is also conducted to make sure that the condition is not worse than a simple frozen shoulder.
With treatment, different things work for different people. Even though the shoulder condition is painful and restrictive, it is not life-threatening, nor permanent and goes away on its own within 2-3 years. For most patients, painkillers or over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs are given to reduce the pain. If those don’t work, then a physician may recommend other measures to improve the range of motion, along with pain management. Here are the most commonly used methods to get rid of a frozen shoulder.
1.Physical Therapy of Exercises at Home
The most prescribed treatment for a frozen shoulder is physical therapy. The idea behind the physical therapy is to loosen the rigid muscles and allow them to regain movement again. Your doctor may refer you to a professional therapist who will first teach you how to perform the exercises and then ask you to practice them at home every day.
These are stretching exercises that unknot the thickened muscles and tissues. Some common exercises include:
- Crossover arm stretch: You will be required to hold the upper arm of the frozen shoulder side and then pull it in front, tucking under the chin. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then let go. Repeat for as many times as you comfortably can.
- Towel Stretch: take a towel and hold it with both hands behind your back. With the good arm, pull the towel up so that your frozen shoulder’s arm also gets pulled up. Continue to do this for 10-20 times.
- Pendulum Stretch: Stand straight with the relaxed shoulder in front of a high table. Put the hand of the unaffected arm on the table and lean forward. Let the affected arm dangle and then rotate in small circles. Continue to increase the diameter of the circle each day as your shoulder muscles relax.
2.Corticosteroid Injection or Joint Distension
There are two different injections that the doctor may prescribe if the pain is bad and your arm refuses to move for the simplest of daily functions. A corticosteroid injection is given in the affected shoulder to reduce pain and increase the range of motion.
Joint distension is when the doctor injects sterile water into the affected shoulder’s capsule. This helps stretch those rigid muscles. Your shoulder joint can move easily without pain.
Sometimes the surgeon may recommend shoulder surgery – or shoulder arthroscopy. The process will involve the use of light tools inserted into very small cuts made into the affected shoulder.
Another kind of surgery is known as shoulder manipulation that helps in loosening the shoulder tissues, but it is rarely recommended as most surgeons prefer arthroscopic procedure. There is a risk of fractures in shoulder manipulation.
Do you feel that you have been suffering from a frozen shoulder that is making daily life tasks difficult for you? The first thing you need to do is visit your doctor so that they can accurately diagnose your condition. Once a frozen shoulder has been diagnosed, they can then decide the best course of action for your problem and ensure that the best treatment option is selected. Do not waste time by trying things at home because a frozen shoulder can become painful, extremely fast.