What Can I Do About Frozen Shoulder?

What Can I Do About Frozen Shoulder?

There aren’t any national statistics on the incidence of frozen shoulder but there are some things experts know: people with diabetes are more likely to develop it, as are women, and people older than 40. The medical name for this painful condition is adhesive capsulitis, and it can strike suddenly and last for several years. 

The providers at MidJersey Orthopaedics are experts in treating shoulder problems, including frozen shoulder. The condition can be frustrating and difficult to pinpoint. If you have unexplained shoulder pain, we may be able to help you understand what’s going on and what you should do about it. 

What is frozen shoulder? 

Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly called frozen shoulder, begins with a slight pain, just a twinge, in your shoulder, then progresses until your joint is stiff and immobile. Then, it slowly returns to normal. 

During the process, your ligaments become thicker, the tissues in your shoulder joint swell, and everything gets tight. Some people develop scar tissue. 

Frozen shoulder rarely affects people younger than 40, and happens most often to people in their 50s and 60s. 

No injury necessary

In some instances, an injury can lead to frozen shoulder, but that’s not always the case. If you have to wear a sling to hold your shoulder immobile for some time after surgery or an injury, it could be a factor in later frozen shoulder. Long periods of immobility can cause the tissues in your joint to swell, thicken, and stiffen. 

Any period of being sedentary can be a factor in frozen shoulder. Other conditions that raise your risk include diabetes and thyroid disorders.

However, even without an injury, a period of inactivity, or conditions that raise your risk, you may find your shoulder getting more painful and less mobile. 

Frozen shoulder happens in 3 stages

Progressing through each of the stages can take as long as two or three years. Most people with frozen shoulder experience each of the three stages. 

1. Freezing

During the earliest stages, you may just feel moments of pain. Over time, those twinges become progressively worse. For most people this stage lasts between two and nine months, and during it your range of motion is decreased. 

2. Frozen

Once you’ve lost mobility, you enter the frozen stage. Your pain may diminish somewhat, but you still can’t move your joint. Performing normal daily tasks may be difficult or impossible during this stage, which typically lasts four to six months. 

3. Thawing

After nearly a year of increasing pain and decreasing mobility, your shoulder begins to loosen and you can move it again. It can take as long as three years altogether for you to regain normal use of your shoulder. 

What we recommend for frozen shoulder

It’s entirely possible that your frozen shoulder will thaw on its own, but it takes a long time, and you probably need to be able to move during that time! Following are the treatment options we’re most likely to recommend. 

Physical therapy

As much as you don’t want to do it, the best thing you can do is move your shoulder. However, it’s crucial to move your shoulder correctly. Our experts can teach you how to move so that you target the tight tissues without damaging them. 

Physical therapy is often a crucial part of recovery. Passive stretches and flexes help your joint heal more quickly. We may also suggest heat and ice therapy at the proper times to help with the pain. 

Anti-inflammatory medications

Inflammation is part of the reason frozen shoulder is painful. Reducing swelling and inflammation can ease your pain. 

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease your pain and reduce the inflammation in your shoulder. NSAIDs can make physical therapy easier to do as well. 

Some people need cortisone injections in order to reduce the inflammation. Your doctor determines the best course of treatment based on numerous individual factors.

Surgery

In some cases, scar tissue builds up inside your joint to an extent it inhibits healing. There are two ways we can help in such a case.

First, we offer noninvasive manipulation. You’re given anesthesia, and your doctor moves your shoulder to break up the scar tissue. This movement stretches your shoulder, and allows your joint to move freely. 

Second, depending on your circumstances, your doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery to remove the scar tissue. 

You don’t have to live with the pain and immobility of frozen shoulder. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, schedule an appointment at MidJersey Orthopaedics to find out why it hurts and what you can do about it. 

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