What is Frozen Shoulder? Symptoms, causes and Working Treatments
People recovering from a medical condition, injury, or procedure are likely to develop shoulder pain, which also commonly known as a frozen shoulder. It usually occurs when a person does not have as much mobility and their arm or when it is in a still position for longer durations.
What is Frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder, also known as Adhesive Capsulitis, is when you have stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. If not attended to properly, its symptoms can worsen over time. The usual treatments for this ailment include exercises, physical therapy, medication, and in some serious cases- surgery.
It can progress over time, but if diagnosed and treated properly, it causes no long-term damage. If you think you might be suffering from shoulder stiffness and pain, here is all you need to know about it.
Symptoms of Frozen shoulder
It is important to know what stage you might be at, in developing a frozen shoulder or the risks attached to it. Frozen shoulder symptoms show up as they progress in 3 different stages. The frozen shoulder stages include:
1. Freezing Stage
This is the first stage patients go through if they suffer from a frozen shoulder. In the freezing stage, any sort of moment involving your shoulder causes pain, which in turn, limits your range and motion. It is difficult to lift objects and do usual tasks.
You start to avoid using your shoulders and arms to reduce the level of discomfort. This stage can last anywhere around 6 to 9 months and is a warning for you to get a proper diagnosis and start with the appropriate treatment right away.
2. Frozen Stage
The secondary phase of this ailment is the frozen stage. In this stage, your shoulder conditions get worse. This might be difficult to assume as your pain levels reduce; however, what changes is the amount of stiffness in your shoulder.
You start feeling difficulties in moving your arm and can feel tightness around the affected area. This stage can last anywhere around 4 to 12 months. It can really affect your day to day activities if not treated properly.
3. Thawing Stage
The last of the frozen shoulder stages is the thawing stage (recovery). In this phase, motion significantly improves, but this is only a given if you are undergoing the right treatment with regular physical therapy. This stage extends over 6 to 12 months, in which you experience comparatively less pain and stiffness in moving your arm.
Apart from the three phases, there can be irregularities in your sleeping pattern and distress throughout the day. These are common symptoms that come along with pain.
Shoulder pain can be difficult to deal with since it is one of the primary joints of your body, which is involved in day-to-day activities. Something as simple as lifting an object involves movement with your shoulders.
If we scope in a little closer, our shoulders are in a capsule of connective tissue that contains bones, ligaments, and tendons. Furthermore, it is surrounded by synovial fluid that allows the lubrication of the joint. Our shoulders consist of a ball and socket joint that needs adequate lubrication to function properly.
When you develop a frozen shoulder, the capsule starts to get stiff and tightens around the joint. In addition to that, bands of scar tissue form around the area that reduce the amount of synovial fluid and that in turn causes pain and restricts your movement.
This can occur in different scenarios! You’re most likely to develop it if you are in recovery from perhaps a broken arm or a stroke. It can also happen if you have recently undergone a surgical procedure and are in recovery.
This can reduce your mobility and can cause stiffness and pain. It inhibits you from making proper use of your arm and shoulder. Other reasons that involve a frozen shoulder are a medical condition or systematic diseases.
More than 20% of diabetes patients develop a frozen shoulder during their condition. In addition to that, there also a few other conditions that can potentially lead up to shoulder pain or a frozen shoulder. These include:
- Hypothyroidism (Under working thyroid)
- Hyperthyroidism (overworking thyroid)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart disease
People with these conditions have a risk of developing shoulder pain and stiffness. Most people over the age of 40 and women are prone to frozen shoulder. It is a phenomenon that is correlated with mobility, which is why talking to your doctor about different exercises and treatments is a good option if you start to notice symptoms.
The first thing to do if you start to notice symptoms of a frozen shoulder- is to get a proper diagnosis. This can either involve a physical exam that evaluates your range of movement or imaging tests.
Your doctor will take some tests by asking you to do certain actions and movements. This tests your active range of motion. While the passive range of motion where the doctor moves your arm as your shoulder stays still.
Apart from this doctor’s also put you to some imaging test. These tests can include MRIs and X-rays to rule out other factors that could be potentially affecting your shoulders. Once you’ve had the proper diagnosis of the ailment, you can start the required treatment.
There are various options to treat a frozen shoulder. It depends on the severity of the condition and what a person can take at their age. Some frozen shoulder treatments include:
1- Exercise and Physical therapy
A physiotherapist helps the patient with different exercises and regimes that can help with recovery. Exercises for frozen shoulder include the circular motion of the arm. This starts to loosen ligaments and tendons near the shoulder area.
Frozen shoulder exercises usually involve stretching the muscles around the shoulder area. Someone of these includes:
- Pendulum reaches – This exercise involves you leaning your body in a 90-degree position and hanging your arm (like a pendulum). Then you move your arm in a circular motion or swing it lightly. You can also hold lightweights.
- Inward rotations– Inward rotations involve holding your elbow against a hard surface and moving your arm. You can attach an exercise band around a door know and pull against, keeping your elbow attached to the surface.
- Outward rotations – This exercise is a fairly easy one, and you need a workout band for it. Stretch the band from side to side using your hands, keeping sure to keep your elbows firmly at a 90-degree angle.
- Cross-body reach – A cross-body reach is a simple side to side stretch where you take your arm across your shoulder to the opposite side and stretch your muscles. Hold each stretch for 15 seconds and repeat several times a day.
- Armpit stretches – Rest your arm on a ledge that is at least 3/4th of your height. Following that, stretch your armpit by bending your knee. This can help relax your shoulder muscles. Repeat 2 to 3 times a week.
- Towel stretches- Towel stretches are something you can do anywhere. It involves holding a towel behind your back and stretching it. You can tilt the towel and stretch your shoulder muscles too.
These exercises are effective at regular intervals. If you have an injury, then wearing a shoulder brace is a great option too. It provides comfort and support. Moreover, you can soothe your shoulder with a hot or cold press after sessions.
2- Wearing a Shoulder Brace
Sometimes after certain injuries where you are on bed rest, patients are recommended to wear a shoulder brace. The brace supports your shoulder and allows you to have a wide range of motion. It helps with movement when you cannot sustain weight on your own.
Apart from recovery from an injury or surgery, a shoulder brace is also good for aged people. It provides extra support and helps you distribute weight. It aids with a speedy recovery from a frozen shoulder and allows your muscles to take a break.
It is a useful tool that helps with providing extra support, especially after certain medical procedures and people going through recovery. It removes the burden from injured muscles and can also help ease up inflammation and swelling.
One of the most common ways to treat a frozen shoulder is by over the counter medication. Patients are given anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or a painkiller that can give temporary relief to the pain.
If your pain is unbearable, then stronger and higher dosage of painkillers are prescribed. Although this is not always the recommended option, and it is better to have a combination of an exercise regime and medications to help recover from a frozen shoulder.
This can lead to a dependency on medications to relieve you of frozen shoulder symptoms but is not entirely a cure for the shoulder pain. Sticking to medication alone can make the problem recur frequently.
4- Surgical methods
A frozen shoulder recovers with light exercise and therapy. It can take anywhere around 12 to 20 months to heal on its own as the pain subsides. However, considering some factors like severity and age, certain cases do not heal as well on their own and require additional help.
Cortisone is a type of steroid that helps with decreasing pain, is it can also aid with movement and improve your mobility over time. It is usually taken in the first stage of a frozen shoulder when you experience the worst pain and want an effective and quick solution for it.
Shoulder manipulation involves a small procedure in which the patient undergoes general anesthesia. The anesthesia puts you out for a while, so you don’t feel pain during the process.
The doctor moves your shoulder in different directions in order to loosen the muscle and help with mobility afterward. This helps patients experiencing extreme pain during movement or cannot handle the weight of their bodies.
Join distention involves injecting sterile water in the capsule of the shoulder joint. This water acts as a lubricating agent for your joints and eases up movement. It helps patients who are older in age and cannot sustain by exercises alone.
Surgery is often a rare option when it comes to a frozen shoulder. However, some doctors do recommend it for severe cases. For instance, when there is an excessive buildup of scar tissue. A minor surgery that involves small incisions and tubular instruments remove and cut away the scar tissue. This loosens of your ball and socket joint and eventually helps with a wider range of mobility.
Can Frozen shoulder be prevented?
In conclusion, a question can be asked whether a frozen shoulder is something preventable? That depends on the cause of shoulder pain. Frozen shoulder usually stems from immobility and lack of movement of long durations.
They are either going through a recovery process after an injury or procedure. This can be prevented. Patients can make use of light exercises and the progressive range of movement during their recovery process.
This way, their joints don’t lodge in one place, and it does not develop any kind of stiffness or pain. Patients who are in recovery can also wear a shoulder brace to reduce the amount of stress on their joints and to distribute their weight evenly.
If, however, frozen shoulders occur due to systematic diseases like diabetes. Then it is difficult to prevent. Doctors have not yet established a cause and effect relationship between the two, and it is hard to prevent something when you cannot pinpoint an exact cause for it.
If you think you have the risk of developing it, you can consult your physician to know what might be the suitable treatment for you and how to overcome the first few signs of discomfort and pain.
Which shoulder brace will work?
We have seen remarkable recovery times with the Strong AID shoulder brace. Its versatility provides rapid pain relief for rotator cuff injuries frozen shoulder, shoulder bursitis, and general shoulder pain.