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Have you got trouble moving your shoulders? Do you feel extreme pain and stiffness on the shoulder joints while moving your arms? If yes, then you have probably turned the victim of a condition called ‘Frozen Shoulder’.
Also known as ‘Adhesive Capsulitis’ in medical terms, it is a condition which reduces the mobility of the shoulder due to pain and stiffness that gradually increases over time and usually resolves on its own. The complete recovery may although take 2 to 3 years. According to a study by Tore A Prestegaard, MD, the lifetime prevalence of frozen shoulder is estimated to be 2 to 5 percent of the general population.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
When you have a frozen shoulder, arm pain and stiffness in the shoulder may make it difficult to perform simple activities like combing your hair, putting away dishes, putting on a belt etc.
The three stages of frozen shoulder and its unique symptoms are as follows:
Freezing: This is the most painful stage where the pain increases over time limiting the mobility of the shoulders. Pain worsens at night and this phase can last from 3 to 9 months
Frozen: At this stage, pain may decrease but the stiffness remains. The movement is still restricted and this stage can commonly last from 9 to 15 months.
Thawing: During this final phase, the pain starts to fade and the range of movement returns gradually. This stage lasts from 15 to 24 months.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder occurs when ‘shoulder capsule‘, a tissue surrounding your shoulder joint thickens and tightens making it hard or impossible for the shoulders to move. It also happens when the thick bands of scar tissues called adhesions are formed and a liquid called synovial fluid which lubricates the joints also reduces. This worsens the mobility even more.
The age group between 40 to 60 are most commonly affected and women are more likely its victim than men. In addition, people with medical conditions like diabetes, stroke, thyroid, Parkinson’s disease and cardiovascular disease are at increased risk of developing frozen shoulder.
Treatment of Frozen Shoulder
A frozen shoulder usually restores on its own within 2 to 3 years but a proper treatment can speed up the recovery. The various treatment options are as follows:
NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ) like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium available over-the-counter can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with frozen shoulder. Steroid injections injected directly to the shoulder joint also works as a powerful medicine to treat pain.
If the above two treatments don’t make your condition better, a doctor may advise you to undergo surgery. This option is generally offered during the second stage of the ailment i.e. the frozen stage. Shoulder manipulation and Shoulder arthroscopy are the two commonly adopted methods of the surgery. In shoulder manipulation, surgeons forcefully move the shoulder under general anaesthesia to help break the scar tissues. While in arthroscopy tiny cuts are made on your shoulder using a camera called an “arthroscope” to remove the scar tissues which help regain the lost motion. Even after surgery, it’s recommended to continue with the physical therapy in the following months so that the condition doesn’t return.
Physical therapy is one of the most commonly adopted treatments for frozen shoulder. Specific therapist-recommended shoulder exercises help to restore the movement. It not only stretches the shoulder joint but also helps in regaining the lost mobility. Staying committed to these exercises will help you to optimize recovery. Apart from these physical exercises, Electrotherapy modalities like a cold pack, ultrasound and TENS unit are the most effective treatment options for frozen shoulder. This non-invasive and gentle home-based therapy focuses on the joints and helps to alleviate the pain and inflammation improving the joint mobility.
To prevent yourself from developing frozen shoulder, as soon as you start feeling shoulder discomfort after an injury, don’t wait get started with the right treatment.