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Frozen Shoulder and How to Treat It

  • Published: 2009-08-26 (Revised/Updated 2010-11-13) : Author: Andy Finn
  • Synopsis: A Frozen Shoulder is one of the most common shoulder conditions and one of the most disabling.

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A Frozen Shoulder is one of the most common shoulder conditions
and one of the most disabling.

Frozen Shoulder owes its name to the fact that the sufferer has the affected shoulder range of motion severely limited. Typically the person affected has trouble reaching up for cupboards, shampooing, steering the car wheel and so on. This is made even worse by the long recovery times to regain full range and mobility.

The medical term for a Frozen Shoulder is Adhesive Capsulitis. The capsule is a membrane protecting the rotator cuff joint that, for reasons today not totally clear yet, sometimes get scarred. The scars are called Adhesions, thus the name Adhesive Capsulitis. The adhesions also make the capsule membrane thicker, and this prevents the shoulder bones from freely moving by reducing the space between them, like a stick jamming a wheel mechanism. The result is loss of range of motion, thus the popular name Frozen Shoulder.

The onset of a Frozen Shoulder could also be linked to diabetes and being overweight, it typically affects people over 40 and more women than men. It is a condition that arises spontaneously and not necessarily through a strain or a repetitive motion, such as in the case of a Bursitis or Tendonitis, though it may help to kick it off.

While Bursitis and Tendonitis are inflammations of different parts of the rotator cuff that are linked to Impingement, in the case of a Frozen Shoulder no inflammation is necessary, since the adhesions are scars of the capsule membrane. A frozen shoulder develops in three phases:

1) A freezing phase lasting 2 or 3 months, when the pain is at its highest, especially at night, but movement is still possible.

2) A frozen phase lasting up to 1 year, when pain is lower but range of motion is limited. This is the most disabling phase.

3) A thawing phase lasting up to 1 year, when movement is very gradually restored.

Normally a Frozen Shoulder is treated with non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs or prescription drugs to relieve the pain. Hot packs to soften up the adhesions and ultrasounds are also popular choices, while manipulation under general anesthesia is used as a last resort when everything fails. Manipulation means that the surgeon manipulates, which is physically breaks the adhesions by moving the arm of the patient. Surgery, in this case arthroscopy, can also be used as a last but effective resort.

It is possible though, to cut down considerably on a frozen shoulder recovery times by implementing a professionally devised set of stretching exercises to be performed at home or after surgery or manipulation. Such exercises should be taken from a professional therapist with knowledge of the shoulder and experience in the field, not taken randomly here and there, because this could lead to further delays in recovery times.

Frozen shoulder is a painful and long to cure ailment that affects countless people worldwide. If you are affected by frozen shoulder there is no need to put up with the misery of limited range of motion and pain for months or years. Find out how a professionally set up rehabilitation program for rotator cuff can cut down drastically on recovery times, anti inflammatory drugs and avoid surgery.


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