Frozen Shoulder

WHAT IS FROZEN SHOULDER?

Adhesive capsulitis, often referred to as frozen shoulder, is an inflammation of the shoulder capsule (the band of connective tissue that encases the shoulder joint) While it may progress quite slowly, the condition eventually results in a greatly restricted range of motion and an overwhelming sense of stiffness in the affected shoulder.

FROZEN SHOULDER SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of frozen shoulder tend to develop gradually. The most common include:

  • Moderate to severe pain and inflammation
  • Persistent stiffness in the affected shoulder
  • A significantly limited range of motion

FROZEN SHOULDER CAUSES

While many conditions seem to encourage its development, the precise cause of frozen shoulder is still unknown. Diabetes, a thyroid disorder, and past surgeries involving the shoulder or the chest all seem to increase the likelihood of developing frozen shoulder, along with any condition that might prompt the patient to immobilize the joint.

FROZEN SHOULDER STAGES

Frozen shoulder manifests itself in several stages:

The first, the “freezing” phase, is defined by increasingly severe pain in the shoulder. It can last for as little as several weeks or as long as nine months.

The second, the “frozen” phase, is defined by a gradually subsiding pain and lingering stiffness. It can last anywhere from four to nine months.

The final, the “thawing” phase, is defined by continued abatement of pain and slow improvement in the shoulder’s range of motion. The length of this phase varies greatly, from as few as five up to 26 months.

FROZEN SHOULDER TREATMENT

Treatments for frozen shoulder are usually conservative, but in a handful of cases, a short arthroscopic surgery may be necessary to completely restore the patient’s range of motion. The ultimate course of treatment depends on the severity of the condition.

Conservative

Most patients with frozen shoulder respond best to a dedicated physical therapy regimen, which will restore the shoulder’s range of motion and develop the muscles and ligaments surrounding it. You will likely need to follow this rehabilitation plan for four to five months to ensure a complete recovery. If necessary, anti-inflammatories and corticosteroid injections can alleviate inflammation, allowing you to continue your stretching and strengthening exercises without impediment.

Surgery

If you continue to suffer from a limited range of motion after more conservative treatments, frozen shoulder can be treated with arthroscopic surgery. During the procedure, your surgeon will break up and remove any pieces of scar tissue in the shoulder. As a minimally invasive procedure, the operation results in fewer complications and a shortened recovery time, with most patients able to resume normal activities within a week and many enjoying a complete recovery in as little as six weeks.

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