What is Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition of restrictive or very limited movement of the shoulder joint because of the loss of its range of motion in all directions. The reason for the cause of this condition is not exactly known but in some of the cases it is thought to be caused by an injury or trauma to the area. Movement of the shoulder is severely restricted and the painful and disabling condition causes great frustration to the patients. The pain is constant and is the most at night or in colder environment. Frozen shoulder can make even small tasks impossible. In medical term frozen shoulder is called adhesive capsulitis.

Frozen shoulder is caused due to the inflammation or scarring or thickening or shrinkage of the tissue between the humerus and the shoulder bone. Frozen shoulder has three stages: Painful or Freezing Stage is the most painful stage. In this stage the movement is restricted but the shoulder is not as stiff as in the frozen stage. The Frozen Stage where the movement of the shoulder is very limited. In this stage the pain usually eases up but the stiffness worsens. The Thawing Stage where the movement of the shoulder gradually and steadily improves. People over the age of 40 are the ones who are mostly affected by frozen shoulder. People suffering from diabetes, thyroid, heart disease, parkinson’s disease are at a particular risk of developing a frozen shoulder. Persons those who have sustained shoulder injury or have undergone a shoulder surgery can develop a frozen shoulder.

The symptoms of a frozen shoulder include shoulder pain, restricted movement of the shoulder, difficulty in performing simple tasks like brushing hair, putting on a shirt, etc that involves movement of the shoulder. The person should consult his physician or a doctor if any of such symptoms are witnessed by him. If the doctor has reasons to believe that the patient is suffering from a frozen shoulder then he shall confirm it through a simple physical exam to check the range of movement. The doctor may also order an x-ray or an MRI to check the inflammation of the shoulder joint. If frozen shoulder is confirmed then the patient should consult physical therapists and immediately start motion exercises to restore function to the shoulder joint. To get relief from pain the doctors may prescribe combination of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medications, cortisone injection into the shoulder. Application of heat to the shoulder may also be advised to loosen the joint and provide relief from pain. Treatment through transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is also an option.

People suffering from frozen shoulder should follow all the recommendations given by their physical therapist and do all the exercises and stretches given to them as per the schedule. Non treatment may result in significant impairment. They should maintain as much movement in the affected shoulder as possible. Some limitation of movement may remain even after the treatment, but with closely guided exercise there is a great possibility of restoring greater range of motion.