6 Essential Things to Know About a Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder is a condition that limits a person’s range of motion. This happens because of the tissues in your shoulder joint becoming tighter and thinker. It leads to your shoulder joint not having enough space to rotate properly. It is also worth mentioning that people between ages of 40 and 60 are more prone to encountering this condition. It also affects more women than men. Because frozen shoulders can limit people from performing their daily activities, it is essential to know everything about this type of condition including the possible treatment methods.
1. What is a Frozen Shoulder?
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) define frozen shoulder as a condition of varying severity characterized by the gradual development of global limitation of active and passive shoulder motion where radiographic findings other than osteopenia are absent. Additionally, specialists say that this condition can also be characterized by severe shoulder pain.
In simple terms, a frozen shoulder is a condition that restricts the normal range of motion of the shoulder. It means that it will be extremely difficult for you to take a book off an overhead shelf, if you experience frozen shoulders. All simple moves that involve your shoulder will be very painful and almost impossible for you. In the vast majority of cases, frozen shoulder is a temporary condition but sometimes it tends to get worse and lead to significant disability.
2. What are the Symptoms of a Frozen Shoulder?
People normally become aware of this problem when their shoulder starts hurting. Shoulder painin the beginning stage then limits your movement. Finally, you will notice that you are not able to perform regular activities without experiencing severe pain. Simple activities like reaching for an item on a high shelf might become extremely difficult for you, if not possible.
If you face a severe condition of frozen shoulder, you will not be able to dress up by yourself. This is not a type of condition that can be left untreated as you will not be able to enjoy your life anymore. It is very important to seek immediate shoulder pain specialists’ help as soon as you notice the first symptoms. The earlier you start the treatment process, the faster your shoulder will heal.
3. What are the Causes of a Frozen Shoulder?
In order to prevent yourself from encountering this condition, you should know everything that can cause it. People with diabetes, a hormonal imbalance or a weakened immune system are more prone to joint inflammation. If you stay inactive for a long period of time because of an injury, illness or surgery you become more vulnerable to inflammation and adhesions. Adhesions are bands of stiff tissue. It might be also the case that scar tissue might form. In general, it takes between two to nine months for the frozen shoulder condition to develop
4. Who is at a Higher Risk of Experiencing a Frozen Shoulder?
As was mentioned above, people of middle ages (between 40-60) are more prone to a frozen shoulder. Additionally, women are more likely to suffer from this issue than men. Shoulder pain specialists claim that if you have diabetes, your chances of getting a frozen shoulder are three times higher. Other risk factors are as follows:
• A person being inactive for a long period of time because of an injury, illness or surgery
• People who wear and tear their shoulder on a regular basis after a severe injury
• People with thyroid disorders
5. How to Diagnose a Frozen Shoulder?
The most common symptoms of a frozen shoulder are stiffness and shoulder pain. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek immediate doctor’s assistance. During a specialist’s visit, a physical exam will assist in assessing your range of motion. In addition to that, a doctor will perform specific movements and measure a range of motion of the shoulder.
It might be also needed to undergo a few tests such as a magnetic resonance imaging scan or MRI in simple terms. It is mainly done in order to rule out a tear in your rotator cuff or other pathology. Shoulder pain specialist might also make use of X-rays for the purpose of checking for arthritis or other abnormalities. In order to see the structure of your shoulder, a doctor can inject dye into your shoulder joint.
6. How to Treat a Frozen Shoulder?
As was mentioned above, there is no way you can leave your frozen shoulder untreated as you will not be able perform your daily activities. Furthermore, the stiffness and the pain can remain for up to three years. The recovery process can be faster if you will make use of the following treatment methods including:
• Physical therapy: it is the most common treatment method for a frozen shoulder. The main goal here is to stretch your shoulder joint and regain the lost range of motions. You will be able to see the progress after a few weeks. It is extremely important to make use of stretching and strengthening exercises. However, before you start any kind of treatment, you should talk to your doctor first. He/she will prepare a personalized program specifically for your level of pain.
• Pain medications: your doctor will normally prescribe you an anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium for the purpose of reducing pain and joint inflammation. In some severe cases, a steroid injection might be needed.
• Surgery: if it is not possible to regain range of motions of your shoulder, surgery is the last option. During this type of surgical intervention, your shoulder will be manipulated and put through a range of motion under a general anesthesia to help break any adhesions. Another type of surgery that you can make use of is arthroscopic surgery. This is a type of surgery where small cuts in your shoulder are made and a special camera is used to remove scar tissues and release it. This will help your shoulder to regain the lost range of motions.
Surgery is typically performed when a frozen shoulder is a result of an injury. If this is the case for you, surgery should be performed within a few weeks following the injury. Surgeries on frozen shoulder is generally performed on an outpatient basis. Your doctor will remove the stitches after 10 days. After surgery, you will also have to undergo postoperative physical therapy. A lot of patients notice their shoulder’s range of motions coming back within three months following the surgery.
Just like any other surgical intervention, surgery on a frozen shoulder also involves some degree of risk. Some people might still experience stiffness or pain or will not be able to handle the pain during the physical therapy.
• Home care: if you want to decrease your pain level you can always place an ice pack on your shoulder for 15 minutes several times during the day. If you work with a physical therapist, it is very important to memorize all the exercises that he/she advises. Take this recommendation seriously as you need to make sure that you will perform these exercises correctly while being at home. The vast majority of people are able to treat their frozen shoulder without surgery.