Monday, July 22

Find Out if You Have Frozen Shoulder

Find Out if You Have Frozen Shoulder 49

Find Out if You Have Frozen Shoulder 50


If you are experiencing pain and stiffness in your shoulder, you may have frozen shoulder, otherwise known as ‘adhesive capsulitis’. Frozen shoulder can be a debilitating condition that affects your daily activities. While the exact cause is not known, your age and some pre-existing health conditions can increase the likelihood of it developing.

Affecting 2-5% of the population, the majority of people who suffer from frozen shoulder are aged between 40 and 60 years of age, and the condition is more prevalent in women than men.1

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

The shoulder consists of three bones that form the ball and socket joint. These bones are the upper arm (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collar bone (clavicle). The shoulder joint is surrounded by a capsule which is a sac filled with fluid that lubricates the joint.

The capsule has ligaments that hold the shoulder bones to each other. It can become inflamed and scar-like tissue forms, causing the capsule to thicken and shrink. This is what causes the pain and stiffness and eventually reduced movement of the shoulder.

It is unclear why the capsule becomes inflamed and damaged, but it is more likely to happen after a shoulder is kept still for a long period of time such as following an arm fracture or surgery.

The Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

There are three stages of frozen shoulder, each of which has a different set of symptoms. Some pain is usually felt at first and then the shoulder becomes stiff, or ‘frozen’ for no obvious reason.

Phase 1: Freezing

This phase of frozen shoulder is when pain around the shoulder increases, followed by some stiffness. The shoulder isn’t fully frozen yet and this phase can last 6-9 months. While this is a long time any aggressive treatment should be avoided.

Phase 2: Frozen

Stiffness becomes the main symptom during this phase where movement becomes more restricted. Some pain can be felt at the beginning of this phase and the shoulder can remain frozen for 9-15 months. At this time physiotherapy is helpful in improving movement. A specialist shoulder physiotherapist at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy will be able to help with a specific treatment plan.

Phase 3: Thawing

The final phase is when a gradual return to range of movement occurs. The pain and stiffness slowly lessen and over 15-24 months the range of motion of the shoulder will increase. Physiotherapy is the best form of treatment during this phase.

Physiotherapy Treatment for Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is often misdiagnosed as a rotator cuff injury, so it is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis of any shoulder pain by a qualified physiotherapist. They will ask about your lifestyle activities and what difficulties you are having with pain and movement of your shoulder.

Common issues that are found during a physiotherapy assessment include:

● Being unable to reach above shoulder height or reach for something quickly.

● Being unable to reach to the side and behind, such as when reaching for a seatbelt.

● Not being able to reach behind your back.

● Not being able to throw a ball.

● Being unable to sleep on your side.

Treatment is dependent on which phase you are in and will be tailored specifically to your current needs.

Phase 1: Freezing

Physiotherapy during this phase focuses on pain relief by using very gentle and specific shoulder exercises. Your GP can prescribe medication for pain relief if necessary. You don’t want to overdo it during this stage, so it is vital you seek expert assistance from a physiotherapist.

Phase 2: Frozen

Gentle exercises are recommended throughout this phase also, to help improve joint mobilisation. Stretches, dry needling and muscle release are all helpful treatment options to improve your shoulder function.

Phase 3: Thawing

This phase brings an improvement in your shoulder, and you will notice the range of motion increasing. Your physio will ensure you continue to safely progress towards recovery.

Overall, the onset and treatment of frozen shoulder may take up to 3 years or more. It is a long and slow process, but the condition can be rehabilitated safely and effectively when a specialist physio is engaged.

Frozen shoulder resolves in the vast majority of patients without surgery. However, if there is insufficient recovery following a specific physiotherapy treatment program then surgery may be considered.

While you can’t do much to prevent frozen shoulder if the cause is unknown, you can take steps to prevent it in cases where disuse may result in pain and stiffness, such as following surgery.

Regardless, it is highly recommended you see a physiotherapist for any shoulder injury or pain, including frozen shoulder. The qualified and experienced team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy strives to get you moving pain-free as soon as possible. Move better, remain active and live a healthier life – give them a call to speak to a physio about your frozen shoulder or book an appointment online.



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