Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, causes shoulder pain and stiffness making the shoulder very hard to move. 2% of the general population suffer from frozen shoulder mostly affecting people in between the ages of 40 and 60, and occurs in women more often than men.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
Any shoulder problem can lead to frozen shoulder if you do not work to keep full range of motion.
Frozen shoulder may occur due to–
- Surgery or injury
- Often in people 40 to 70 years old
- Women (especially in postmenopausal women) than in men
- People with chronic diseases
Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder
Physical exam with limited shoulder movement is an easy way to diagnose frozen shoulder. An X-ray is taken to see whether symptoms are from another condition like arthritis or a broken bone. The major sign of this condition is being unable to move an individual’s shoulder – either on your own or with the help of someone else and develops in three stages:
In the “freezing” stage, you slowly have more and more pain. As the pain worsens, the shoulder loses range of motion. Freezing typically lasts from 6 weeks to 9 months.
Painful symptoms may actually improve during this stage, but the stiffness remains. During the 4 to 6 months of the “frozen” stage, daily activities become difficult to perform.
Shoulder motion slowly improves during the “thawing” stage. Complete return to normal or close to normal strength and motion typically takes from 6 months to 2 years.
Treating Frozen Shoulder & Precautions to Take
Treatment for frozen shoulder usually starts with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and application of heat to the affected area, followed by gentle stretching. Ice and medicines can be used to reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy can help increase your range of motion. A frozen shoulder can take a year or more to get better.
If treatment is not helping, surgery is done to loosen some of the tight tissues around the shoulder. It may require two surgeries to treat frozen shoulder. In one surgery, called manipulation under anesthesia, the arm is moved into positions that stretch the tight tissue. The other surgery uses an arthroscope to cut through tight and scar tissues. These surgeries can both be done in one sitting.
ALSO READ: What is Shoulder Replacement Surgery?
Can Frozen Shoulder Be Prevented
Gentle, progressive range-of-motion exercises, stretching, and using your shoulder more may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or an injury. Experts do not exactly know what causes some cases of frozen shoulder, and it may not be possible to prevent these. Keeping patience and following doctor’s advice is the key to get better over time.
Treatment for Frozen Shoulder
Painkillers – relieve symptoms of pain. Paracetamol is recommended for extended use. Prescribed painkillers may reduce pain to long extent. Not all painkillers are suitable for every patient and should be reviewed by the doctor.
Exercise – frequent, gentle exercise can prevent and even reverse stiffness in the shoulder.
Hot or cold compression packs – help to reduce pain and swelling. It is often helpful to alternate between the two. Injections may be injected into the shoulder joint to alleviate pain, especially in the ‘painful stage’ of symptoms. However, repeated corticosteroid injections are discouraged as they could cause damage to the shoulder.
Physical therapy can teach you exercises to maintain as much mobility and flexibility as possible without straining the shoulder or causing too much pain.
Recovering from Frozen Shoulder
After surgery, physical therapy is necessary to maintain the motion achieved with surgery. Recovery times vary, from 6 weeks to three months. Although it is a slow process, commitment to therapy is the important factor in returning to normalcy.
Long-term outcomes after surgery are generally good, with most patients having reduced or no pain and greatly improved range of motion. In some cases, however, even after several years, the motion does not return completely and a small amount of stiffness remains. Uncommon, frozen shoulder can recur, especially if a contributing factor like diabetes is still present.
Frozen Shoulder Surgery in India
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