What is a frozen shoulder?

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, it is a shoulder condition that limits your upper arm’s mobility in all directions. The shoulder is composed of three bones: collarbone, shoulder blade and upper arm. The shoulder joint holds all three structures together, and movement of the joint is enabled by a surrounding tissue called the shoulder capsule. The shoulder capsule may become thick and stiffened, restricting mobility. This state is referred to as frozen shoulder. Mostly it affects people in their 40’s to 60’s.

The main indications of a frozen shoulder are stiffness and inflammation that restrict the mobility of the arm. You are likely to feel a dull pain in one shoulder. It occurs in three stages, with each possessing its own unique symptoms. They include:

  • Freezing stage- here, you will develop pain in the shoulder every time you move it. The pain gradually gets severe and lasts anywhere from six to nine months. The pain limits some particular range of motion.
  • Frozen stage- the pain may reduce at this phase. Nonetheless, it becomes stiffer and more difficult to move. The stage may last between four to twelve months.
  • Thawing stage- mobility in shoulder starts to become better and with time goes back to normal. It could take between six to two years to improve.

Treatment alternatives for adhesive capsulitis entail on alleviating pain and restoring mobility in the shoulder. There are multiple ways to alleviate the condition.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen will alleviate the pain and make the condition manageable. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe painkillers such as codeine to reduce the inflammation. Before proceeding to take medication to contain the pain, it would be advisable to consult with your doctor. You may also receive corticosteroid injections to help with the swelling and pain in the shoulder. Your doctor will prescribe the recommended frequencies of these injections to prevent undesirable side effects.

Physical therapy
The goal is to stretch the inflamed shoulder joint and restore its mobility. Normally it entails of stretching and relaxation exercises that target the shoulder.

Hot and cold therapy
Placing a cold or ice pack on the affected area on the shoulder for around twenty minutes may help reduce pain. You may alternate the ice pack with a hot pad for maximum pain relief. Your therapist may recommend coupling the hot and cold therapy with some types of exercises to improve the condition effectively.

When all other treatment options fail, your doctor may recommend surgery as a last resort. Surgical intervention manipulates the shoulder to regain full range under general anesthetic. Arthroscopic surgery is also another surgical option that involves making an incision in your shoulder and removing the scar tissue triggering the adhesive capsulitis condition. Most patients will regain lost motion in the shoulder after surgery.

If you are suffering from a confined range of motion and pain in the shoulder, seek medical help immediately to improve your quality of life.

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POSMC is a full-service medical facility specializing in the evaluation and treatment of orthopedic injuries. The practice is led by a group of 12 board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. Contact us today!