What is frozen shoulder? Causes, prevention and treatment
Often pain in the shoulder is inappropriately given a blanket diagnosis of ‘frozen shoulder’. The first course of action by most people is to undergo physiotherapy. However, it is not enough to have untargeted physical therapy without proper diagnosis. More than 50% of older adults with diabetes are affected with frozen shoulder. It is, thus, important to understand the basics of this ailment. In this article, Dr Reetadyuti, the best shoulder specialist in Gurgaon, offers a complete guide of what is frozen shoulder and how to diagnose frozen shoulder.
What is frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is a common musculoskeletal disorder that affects the shoulder joint. It is medically referred to as adhesive capsulitis.
This condition characterised by shoulder stiffness, pain and a restricted range of motion.
What is frozen shoulder symptoms?
Primarily, the symptoms of a frozen shoulder include a dull pain and shoulder stiffness. You may also experience a similar pain spreading to your upper arm. In this condition, the sensation of discomfort tends to worsen in night.
A frozen shoulder progresses gradually in three stages. Each stage has a distinguished set of symptoms to look out for:
- Freezing stage: It is the initial phase of adhesive capsulitis. During the freezing stage, you will begin to notice a debilitating loss in your shoulder movement. You are likely to feel a dull achy pain while moving your shoulder joint.
- Frozen stage: In this stage, you will feel that your movement has become more limited. While you feel lesser pain, the stiffness in your joint will increase tremendously.
- Thawing stage: At this stage, you will begin to regain your mobility and strength. The thawing stage is achieved after a proper diagnosis and treatment.
What are the frozen shoulder causes and cure?
The anatomy of your shoulder consists of three bones. These bones are structured in a way that forms a ball and socket joint protected by a capsule of connective tissues. Over time, the connective tissues in the shoulder joint can become thicker, tighter, and inflamed. This stiffness limits the mobility of your shoulder and causes severe pain.
Frozen shoulder can affect any person irrespective of their age and gender. However, some population groups are more likely to be affected by this condition. The common risk factors for developing frozen shoulder are:
- Age: Degeneration of tissues associated with aging can lead to frozen shoulder. Most people are affected by this condition after 40 years of age.
- Gender: Women have a higher predisposition of this condition as compared to men.
- Immobility: Sometimes your lifestyle or an injury can reduce the mobility of your shoulder. Prolonged immobility is a risk factor for frozen shoulder. Some conditions such as rotator cuff injury, broken arm or surgery can affect the range of movement of your shoulder joint.
- Diabetes: Studies have proven that nearly 10-20% of diabetic patients tend to develop a frozen shoulder. Diabetes management can help in preventing frozen shoulders.
- Other health conditions: There are several health conditions such as stroke, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease and other cardiac diseases can also increase your likelihood of a frozen shoulder.
How to diagnose frozen shoulder?
Your healthcare provider will discuss your medical history with you. He/she will ask you about the symptoms, the first time you noticed pain and stiffness and the effect of symptoms in your routine.
A general physical exam and frozen shoulder test are enough to diagnose frozen shoulder. There are three essential elements of a frozen shoulder test.
- Active range of motion: Your healthcare provider will ask you to move your shoulder. He/she will analyse how much movement you can make on your own.
- Passive range of motion: Your doctor will move your shoulder for you. He/she will make a range of motions to check your shoulder stiffness.
- Comparing the two: Your healthcare provider will compare the active and passive range of motions. This comparison allows the doctor to note the differences to draw a precise diagnosis.
Your shoulder specialist may also order some imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI scans to rule out the possibility of other musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis or rotator cuff tear.
How to cure frozen shoulder quickly?
The fundamental step on how to cure frozen shoulder quickly is pain management. As the stage progresses, your healthcare provider may indicate other treatment modalities to get rid of frozen shoulder.
Hot and cold compress: Based on your diagnosis and severity of symptoms, your healthcare provider will suggest either a hot or a cold compress. Heat and cold compresses help reduce the pain and stiffness in the joint.
Medicines: Your doctor will prescribe relevant pain relief medications for your condition. The alleviation of pain is the foremost step towards frozen shoulder treatment.
Physical therapy: As your pain and swelling subside, your doctor will progress the treatment by indicating physiotherapy. A trained physical therapist will perform stretching exercises to improve your range of motion.
Surgical procedures: Mostly a frozen shoulder gets better with the use of medicines and physiotherapy within a few months. Nevertheless, there are rare incidents that require surgical intervention. Your healthcare provider may indicate joint distension, shoulder manipulation and other arthroscopic procedures to treat persistent frozen shoulder.
What is frozen shoulder prevention?
Though frozen shoulder causes and cure are often overlooked, it is possible to prevent the incidence of frozen shoulder, especially when you are recovering from a shoulder injury. Physical therapy by a verified therapist is a great preventive measure. If you have suffered from a shoulder injury or begun experiencing pain, you should avail physiotherapy to stop the condition from progressing further.
Some exercises can also be done routinely at home. Your healthcare provider can help formulate an effective exercise regime for you to practise at home.
The concluding note
If it is not treated properly, a frozen shoulder can cause long-lasting pain and immobility. A timely and proper diagnosis is crucial to care for a frozen shoulder. Your shoulder specialist will guide you towards a healthy lifestyle that includes activities suitable for your shoulder joints.
Book an appointment with Dr Reetadyuti, the best shoulder specialist in Gurgaon at the CK Birla Hospital, to learn more about the shoulder and joint conditions.
Ques: What is frozen shoulder pain like?
Frozen shoulder pain is like a dull and achy pain in the shoulder that may worsen during the night.
Ques: Is it OK to massage a frozen shoulder?
Yes, you can massage and stretch a frozen shoulder to relieve tension and tightness.
Ques: Why does a frozen shoulder hurt more at night?
It is because, during the night, when you lay down, the inflamed area of your shoulder becomes compressed and causes increased stiffness and pain.
Ques: Is surgery an option for frozen shoulder?
Yes, surgical repair of a frozen shoulder is an option. However, most frozen shoulders are treated non-surgically.