The term frozen shoulder is the common name for adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, when connective tissue around the joint becomes inflamed and stiff.
A frozen shoulder is exactly what it sounds like: the joint of the shoulder becomes unable to move in certain directions and may be accompanied by pain. The most commonly experienced symptom of frozen shoulder is the inability to reach behind one’s back. A man might find he can barely reach his wallet when it’s in a back pocket, and a woman may need help to fasten her bra.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
Shoulders commonly experience overuse type injuries, caused by repetitive motions over and over. Typically, frozen shoulder starts from an injury to the shoulder that is not appropriately treated. For example, anytime a person wears a sling on their arm for more than a few days without periodically stretching the shoulder, it increases the possibility of a frozen shoulder.
To diagnose frozen shoulder, a doctor or clinician will put a patient through a series of movements and by measuring the range of motion can determine whether the shoulder is frozen or not. The movements that typically cause pain in a person with frozen shoulder are reaching across to touch the opposite shoulder or down the back of the opposite shoulder (an exam called the Apley Scratch Test).
Your doctor may also use different tests to rule out other causes of a patient’s symptoms, such as damage to the rotator cuff (the muscles and tendons that move the shoulder joint) or labrum (the cartilage creating a rim around the shoulder joint).
Certain medical conditions place some people at an increased risk of frozen shoulder. The illness affects people typically in the 40-60 age range. Risks go up if recovering from a condition like a stroke or if recovering from surgery like a mastectomy that prohibits a person using a full range of motion. About 10-20% of all people with diabetes have experienced a frozen shoulder just as heart disease, thyroid disease or Parkinson’s also greatly increases the risk of frozen shoulder.
Treatment for Frozen Shoulder
The condition can often be treated without surgery and will eventually work itself out – but that can take 2 or 3 years. For faster relief, physical therapy is often recommended.
The goal of physical therapy is to stretch tissue in the area in order to recover the lost range of motion. By diligently following a proper routine provided by a physical therapist, more than 90 percent of frozen-shoulder sufferers reported improvement within 6 months.
While a complete recovery may take up to 2 or 3 years, by adhering to a physical therapy plan, that recovery time will include a vastly improved range of motion. Always remember to properly warm up and stretch before exercising and that includes if you have a frozen shoulder.
Because frozen shoulder is not permanent, most doctors will try a variety of nonsurgical means to release the joint and reserve surgical methods only for the most severe of cases.
The professionals of Orthopedic Associates of West Jersey possess decades of experience treating all manner of sports and orthopedic injuries. They have one goal in mind, to return you to feeling better and being able to resume your healthy, active lifestyle.
If your shoulder has gotten stiffer and stiffer with passing months, it could be a case of frozen shoulder. Don’t let shoulder pain and a decreased range of motion negatively affect your life for another day. Call them at (973) 989-0888 today or request an appointment online to take that first step toward a better, happier you.