About 2% of the general population suffers from frozen shoulder. It is most common in people aged 40 to 60. The injury occurs when the soft tissue around your shoulder becomes inflamed, then shrinks and thickens over time. It is important to catch any problems early to avoid long-term issues. How do you get a frozen shoulder? Read on to learn the answer, along with effective treatment options to help you heal.
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint and has three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone). The head of the humerus fits perfectly into a socket of your scapula. A strong connective tissue, known as the shoulder capsule, surrounds the joint.
To move the shoulder easily, there should be enough synovial fluid to constantly lubricate the joint and the shoulder capsule. Once the shoulder capsule becomes tight, stiff bands of tissue develop, which cause frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis.
Frozen Shoulder Stages
Frozen shoulder develops slowly, in three distinct phases. Each stage of frozen shoulder can last for several months.
Freezing: During the first stage, the pain comes on gradually and slowly limits shoulder movement. You may not notice anything until it is too late. In just a few months, the discomfort may become severe enough to affect your sleep and daily routine. The “freezing” phase may last from six weeks to nine months.
Frozen: The symptoms may improve during the “frozen” phase, but the stiffness remains. From four to six months, performing everyday activities can be very complicated. Restriction of shoulder movement may last for up to a year.
Thawing: The final stage is referred to as the “thawing” phase. Shoulder mobility gradually improves. Patients require six months to two years to regain normal shoulder mobility and strength.
Frozen Shoulder Causes
The medical community still does not fully understand the underlying causes of frozen shoulder. In fact, there is no clear connection to job type or arm dominance. However, these factors are known to increase the risk of developing frozen shoulder:
Immobilization: Frozen shoulder may occur when the shoulder has been immobilized for a long period, whether because of a fracture, surgery, or other serious injury that keeps you from moving your arm normally.
Diabetes: Studies have shown that 10% to 20% of people with diabetes have suffered from frozen shoulder.
Other health problems: Other chronic diseases linked to frozen shoulder include cardiac disease, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism.
Frozen Shoulder Symptoms
Frozen shoulder can affect one or both shoulders. Knowing the signs is important and can help your doctor narrow the long list of possible problems. Listed below are the mostcommon symptoms of frozen shoulder.
Swelling and tenderness to to uch
Difficulty sleeping on your side
Unable to quickly reach for something
Pain worsens at night, disrupting sleep
Stiffness that does not go away
Loss of shoulder function
Frozen Shoulder Diagnosis
With a 360-degree range of motion, the shoulder has one of the greatest risks of injury of all joints. Early and proper diagnosis will help prevent long-term discomfort in your shoulder joint.
Medical History and Physical Examination
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, general health, and medical history. Your shoulders will be examined thoroughly, looking for pain with motion and limited mobility.
The range of motion your shoulder has when moving independently is called “active range of motion.” Your healthcare provider will compare this to the “passive range of motion,” when somebody else moves your shoulder.
An X-ray shows dense structures like bones and can help your doctor determine whether your symptoms are from other serious conditions, such as a broken bone or arthritis.
An MRI scan produces better images, which will help your doctor identify other causes of pain and stiffness.
Frozen Shoulder Treatment
Do not assume your symptoms will subside after a week or two. Frozen shoulder can worsen over time. Make an appointment with your doctor right away to determine the best frozen shoulder treatment option for you. The following methods will help you restore motion and strength as soon as possible.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, will help control pain. These medications can be effective during the early freezing stage. If the symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
Frozen Shoulder Injection
Frozen shoulder injections reduce swelling and restore range of motion. Medical professionals explain that cortisone is a powerful yet safe medicine, which is injected directly into the shoulder joint or soft tissues.
Consider wearing a high-quality brace for warmth and support. The universal shoulder brace, for example, is made to relieve pain and discomfort. The 100% neoprene fabric material ensures a comfortable fit so you can wear it all day long. In addition, it has a premium fastening material to change the tightness to your own specifications.
A shoulder brace prevents dangerous movement that can further damage your injured shoulder. ( See Product )
An arm sling will provide fast relief and proper support and will protect your shoulder by immobilizing the joint. A sling will keep you from re-injuring your shoulder by bumping into something hard or moving the joint in the wrong way.
Apply an ice pack to reduce pain and inflammation. Also try alternating cold and warm therapy, known as contrast therapy, to soothe the joint and the surrounding muscles. Always check with your doctor beforehand.
Applying an ice pack to your injured shoulder reduces swelling and numbs pain. ( See Product )
Soft Tissue Massage
A soft tissue massage targets ligaments, tendons, and muscles to reduce muscle spasms, alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, improve oxygen flow, and increase blood circulation. Try using massage roller balls to get all these benefits in the comfort of your home or on the go.
Massage roller balls are an easy, portable way to target muscle knots at home or on the go. ( See Product )
Frozen Shoulder Exercises
Performing stretching and strengthening frozen shoulder exercises at home will improve your blood flow to aid in the healing process and increase your shoulder mobility. Always inform your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Step 1:Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Step 2:Hold one end of a towel behind your back, then grasp the opposite end with your other hand.
Step 3:Slowly pull upward until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds.
Step 4:Switch sides and repeat.
Step 5:Perform this exercise 10 to 20 times per day.
Step 1:Face a wall and place your affected arm at waist level.
Step 2:Bend your elbow slightly, then use your fingertips to walk your fingers slowly up the wall.
Step 3:Only raise your arm as far as is comfortable. Place pressure on your hands, not your shoulder muscles.
Step 4:Gently lower your affected arm, then repeat.
Step 5:Perform this exercise 10 to 20 times throughout the day.
Step 1:Stand and lean over slightly. Your affected arm should hang down straight and relaxed.
Step 2:Swing your arm in a circle, a foot in diameter.
Step 3:Perform 10 circles clockwise and then 10 circles counterclockwise. As your symptoms improve, increase the diameter of your swing.
Cross Body Reach
Step 1:Stand tall, or sit in a chair.
Step 2:Slowly raise your affected arm across your body. Use your other arm to assist your injured arm at the elbow.
Step 3:Exert gentle pressure. You should feel a stretch at the back of your affected shoulder.
Step 4:Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds.
Step 5:Perform this exercise 10 to 20 times a day.
Step 1:Lie flat on the floor.
Step 2:Extend one arm all the way over your head and roll onto your side.
Step 3:Rest your head on the floor. The goal is to flatten your armpit and stretch your shoulder.
Step 4:Walk your hand away from you, but do not force it. Return to the starting position.
Step 5:Switch sides and repeat. Perform this exercise 5 to 10 times each day.
Step 1:Stand tall, and hold a rubber exercise band with your unaffected arm.
Step 2:Put a rolled towel between your thorax and your upper arm to help you stay in the right position.
Step 3:Grab the other end of the band using your injured arm, and slowly pull.
Step 4:Keep your wrist straight and neutral.
Step 5:Perform 10 to 15 reps.
Step 1:Stand tall next to a closed door. Put one end of a rubber band around the doorknob.
Step 2:Grab the other end with your injured arm.
Step 3:Slowly pull it 2 to 3 inches away from your body.
Step 4.Hold the position for 5 seconds.
Step 5:Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.
Frozen Shoulder Surgery
If your symptoms are not relieved by bracing, injections, therapy, massage, anti-inflammatory drugs, or exercises, talk to your doctor about frozen shoulder surgery. The most common surgical methods are shoulder arthroscopy and frozen shoulder manipulation.
This comprehensive procedure involves cutting through tight portions of your joint capsule. Using safe and effective pencil-sized tools, the surgeon will insert them through small incisions around your shoulder.
Frozen Shoulder Manipulation
The goal of frozen shoulder manipulation is to increase range of motion and release the joint tightness. Your shoulder will be forced to move into positions to stretch the capsule and scar tissue. In most cases, medical professionals recommend both arthroscopy and manipulation to achieve maximum results.
Before undergoing surgery, always ask about the risks and the recovery potential. There are two major complications that may arise from frozen shoulder manipulation: fracture of the shaft or proximal humerus and traction lesion of the brachial plexus.
Physical therapy is necessary to maintain the range of motion that was achieved by surgical repair. The recovery time may vary, usually from six weeks to three months. The pain and stiffness will subside eventually, but full recovery typically requires one and a half to two years.
Prevent Frozen Shoulder from Recurring
Do not take your body for granted. Even though it rarely happens, frozen shoulder can recur. Always follow your doctor’s orders, and schedule follow-up visits. Your commitment to recovery is the key factor in returning to your lifestyle and all the activities you enjoy.
Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.
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