What is Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterised by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one to three years.
The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up your shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement.
Doctors aren’t sure why this happens to some people, although it’s more likely to occur in people who have diabetes or those who recently had to immobilize their shoulder for a long period, such as after surgery or an arm fracture.
Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages. Each stage can last a number of months.
- Freezing stage. Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.
- Frozen stage. Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer, and using it becomes more difficult.
- Thawing stage. The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.
For some people, the pain worsens at night, sometimes disrupting sleep.
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder.
Age and sex
People 40 and older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder.
Immobility or reduced mobility
People who’ve had prolonged immobility or reduced mobility of the shoulder are at higher risk of developing frozen shoulder. Immobility may be the result of many factors, including:
- Rotator cuff injury
- Broken arm
- Recovery from surgery
People who have certain diseases appear more likely to develop frozen shoulder. Diseases that might increase risk include:
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Most frozen shoulder treatment involves controlling shoulder pain and preserving as much range of motion in the shoulder as possible. In severe cases, your doctor may also recommend surgical and other procedures.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with frozen shoulder. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs.
A physical therapist can teach you range-of-motion exercises to help recover as much mobility in your shoulder as possible. Your commitment to doing these exercises is important to optimise recovery of your mobility.
Here at Pilates Connection, we are currently helping treat a number of clients with Frozen Shoulder, via specific routines designed to stretch both the posterior and anterior muscles of the shoulder, as well as doing range of motion and shoulder strengthening exercises. Regular Structural Integration (KMI) sessions can also help improve shoulder mobility and associated pain caused by Frozen Shoulder.
If you’ve had an injury that makes it difficult to move your shoulder, or think you may be in the early stages of Frozen Shoulder, talk to us about exercises you can do to maintain the range of motion in your shoulder joint.
Source: Mayo Clinic