You may have gotten the cold shoulder before, and it can hurt in its own way. But have you ever had a frozen shoulder? Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition involving stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. Symptoms of a frozen shoulder begin slowly, worsening over the course of a few years, and are usually brought on by an existing medical condition or procedure. The condition is also noted because it resolves on its own over time. However, if you notice the signs of a frozen shoulder starting, an orthopedic doctor near you can provide treatment that controls symptoms and prevents worsening proactively.
Do I Have Frozen Shoulder?
Anyone can develop frozen shoulder, though you may be at a higher risk if you have recently overcome a medical condition or had a procedure that prevented full range of motion in your arm. For example, a stroke or a mastectomy may put you at risk of developing a frozen shoulder. The condition almost always presents in one shoulder at a time, developing slowly and in three stages that can last months each. Many people report the pain worsens at night and causes sleep disturbances, particularly for people who usually sleep on the impacted side of their body.
The first stage of a frozen shoulder is known as the freezing stage and is marked by pain during shoulder movement and limitations to the range of motions. This progresses to the frozen stage, which may mean less pain is present but stiffness has increased, to the point that movement may not be possible at all. The final stage is called the thawing stage, where range of motion begins to approve.
Doctors do not have a good answer for why some people develop a frozen shoulder and others do not. The condition is brought on by the connective tissue of the shoulder thickening and tightening, to the extent that movements of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons become restricted or fully prevented. Certain risk factors, like being over 40 and a woman, may make this more likely, and some systemic illnesses like diabetes could also increase risk.
Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder
If you start to notice signs of a frozen shoulder, such as the freezing phase, visiting an orthopedic doctor near you is an important first step to take. The sooner you are able to seek care, the more likely you will be able to prevent future problems or a severe case. When they suspect the condition, your doctor will perform a physical evaluation that may include asking you to perform certain tasks or movements or allow them to move your arms while you relax. This allows testing of your active range of motion, where you move your own arm, and your passive range of motion where it is moved by an external force- a true frozen shoulder would easily impact both. From this, most doctors can diagnose you, though diagnostic scans may also be used to rule out other conditions.
Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder
Because frozen shoulders usually resolve on their own, most treatments will focus on controlling pain and preserving range of motion as much as possible. This may include the use of medications, both over-the-counter ones that reduce pain and inflammation, or even prescribed medications that are carefully moderated. You will likely be given exercises to perform with the help of a physical therapist in order to maintain and recover your range of motion. The ability to use your arm, with caution, is critical as it allows the preservation of movement. Most cases do resolve on their own within 12 to 18 months, but managing symptoms in that time is critical.
If symptoms persist, there are more invasive methods of treatment that an orthopedic doctor near you can offer. Injections of steroids can be used to manage pain and increase mobility, particularly in the early stages of the condition. Sterile water may also be used as an injection into the joint capsule, designed to stretch the tissue and allow for mobility in the joint.
In the most severe cases, where all other options have been exhausted, surgery may be necessary to remove scar tissue and adhesions from the inside of the shoulder joint.
Whether you have already developed a frozen shoulder, or think you may be at risk due to recent immobilization, AICA College Park offers orthopedic doctors near you for consultations. Our team will be able to diagnose the condition and create a unique, holistic treatment plan. Contact us today to begin!