Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a shoulder condition that causes pain in your shoulder as well as limits its range of motion. When the tissues in your shoulder joint become tighter and thicker, it can lead to the development of scar tissue. Therefore, your shoulder joint doesn’t get enough space for proper rotation. This condition generally occurs between the ages of 40 and 60.
If your shoulder begins to hurt, you can become aware of a frozen shoulder. You are forced to limit your movement because of the pain. As you move the shoulder less and less, the stiffness increases, and within some time, you find out that you are no longer able to move your shoulder like you once did. When this problem becomes severe, you can also have problems performing everyday tasks that involve shoulder movement.
Causes & risk factors
The bones, ligaments and tendons making up the shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. When this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, the movement gets restricted.
Though doctors aren’t entirely sure which this occurs, the condition is more seen among people who have diabetes, or those who recently had to immobilize their shoulder for a long time, such as after a surgery, or an arm fracture.
There are certain risk factors that can increase your risk of developing a frozen shoulder.
- People who are above the age of 40, especially women, are generally more likely to have this condition.
- People suffering from prolonged immobility or reduced mobility of the shoulder are also at a high risk of having this condition. Immobility can be the result of several factors, such as broken arm, stroke, rotator cuff injury, or recovery from surgery.
- People having certain diseases including diabetes, tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease, overactive thyroid, an underactive thyroid, and Parkinson’s disease are also more likely to develop this condition.
During the physical exam, first, your doctor might ask you to move in certain ways in order to check your pain and evaluate your range of motion. Your doctor is next likely going to ask you to relax your muscle, while he/she moves your arm.
Sometimes, your doctor might also inject your shoulder with a numbing medication, so that he/she can determine your passive and active range of motion.
Frozen shoulder can also be diagnosed with signs and symptoms alone. However, your doctor might suggest imaging tests, such as MRI or X-rays, to rule out any other problems.
Most of the treatments for frozen shoulder involves controlling the pain and preserving as much range of motion as possible.
Therapy- A physical therapist can help you learn range-of-motion exercises so that you are able to recover as much mobility as you can, in your shoulder. Your commitment to these exercises is important if you expect a fast recovery of your mobility.
Medications- Your doctor might also recommend you over-the-counter pain relievers to deal with the pain and inflammation of the frozen shoulder. Depending on your shoulder, yo ur doctor might also sometimes recommend pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Although most frozen shoulders get better within 12-18 months on their own, in cases where there are persistent symptoms, your doctor might suggest:
Steroid injections- Injecting corticosteroids into your shoulder joint might help in decreasing. It should also improve the mobility of the shoulder, especially in the early stages of the process.
Shoulder manipulation- In this procedure, you are first given a general anesthetic, so that you are unconscious and feel no pain. Then your doctor moves your shoulder joint in various directions, in order to loosen the tightened tissue.
Joint distension- Injecting sterile water into the joint capsule might help to stretch the tissue and also make it easier to move the joint.
Surgery- Surgery for frozen shoulder is performed quite rarely, but if nothing else is helping, then your doctor might recommend surgery for removing scar tissue and adhesions from inside your shoulder joint. Generally, this surgery is performed with lighted, and tubular instruments which are inserted through small incisions around your joint.
Acupuncture- Alternative medicine such as acupuncture is also known to help with this condition. In this method, fine needles are inserted in your skin at specific points, which remain in place for between 15 to 40 minutes. They may be moved or manipulated during this time. Most acupuncture treatments are generally painless.
Early treatments generally keep the condition from getting worse. If you are having diabetes, then managing it properly can help you reduce the risk for a frozen shoulder.