Recovery From Frozen Shoulder Can Take a While

May 30, 2021

Adhesive capsulitis is a surprisingly common and trouble condition that is also known as frozen shoulder. This condition will have a person suffering from both pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. The symptoms of a frozen shoulder will start slowly and then worsen over time. Later it will resolve, generally within twelve to thirty six months after onset. People who have had a medical condition like a stroke or had a surgery like a mastectomy are more at risk for this condition. There are several treatment options for this disease which include exercising, medications to manage the pain, and surgery. Once a person has had a frozen shoulder, they will typically not have it in that shoulder again. However, the shoulder that was not affected the first time can be affected later.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

There are several things that may cause frozen shoulder in people, and they include:

  • Age - People that are over forty are at an increased risk for a frozen shoulder.
  • Sex - Typically, frozen shoulders are seen more in women than in men.
  • Immobility - Those that cannot move much or have reduced mobility are at a higher risk of developing a frozen shoulder. For example, those with a broken arm,  rotator cuff injury, past stroke, or are recovering from a recent surgery have an elevated frozen shoulder risk.
  • Systemic diseases - People who have systemic diseases like diabetes, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and tuberculosis are more at risk for a frozen shoulder.

In some cases, though, people who do not have any of these conditions have had a frozen shoulder. Doctors are not sure why at this time, but if anyone has the symptoms of a frozen shoulder, they should see their doctor immediately, no matter the cause.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulders will develop in three stages, and each stage will last several months. These stages are:

  1. Freezing stage. The freezing stage will consist of pain anytime the shoulder is moved. There will be no way that their shoulder can be moved that does not cause pain. During this stage, the range of motion will start to be affected. Some people find that the pain from a frozen shoulder is worse at night.
  2. Frozen stage. When the frozen stage occurs, pain may not be as big of a problem, but a person will not be able to move their shoulder much at all, and the shoulder joint will be very stiff.
  3. Thawing stage. During this stage, the pain will be minimal, and the range of motion will start to normalize.

Treating Frozen Shoulder

The treatment of frozen shoulder consists of trying to preserve the range of motion in the shoulder and controlling the shoulder pain. Treatment options include:

  • Medications -  Over-the-counter medications may be recommended by your doctor. If the frozen shoulder pain is severe, the doctor may recommend stronger pain medications and additional anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Therapy - Going to physical therapy can help to keep the range of motion in the shoulder. There are various exercises that will be recommended, and a person with a frozen shoulder may have to work hard to restore range of motion.
  • Joint distension - In some cases, the doctor may decide to do a joint distension. This is where sterile water is injected into the joint capsule. This can make increased mobility possible in the joint.
  • Shoulder manipulation - Shoulder manipulation may help to loosen the joint. When this is done, a person is put under and the shoulder is moved in a different direction.
  • Surgery - If no other options have helped, a person’s doctor may recommend surgery. This surgery will go in and remove any adhesions and scar tissue from the joint.
  • Acupuncture - Some studies have shown that acupuncture can help to alleviate the pain that is associated with a frozen shoulder. Acupuncture is painless and can last for fifteen minutes or upwards of an hour, depending on the treatment that a person needs.
  • TENS machine - A TENS machine may help to alleviate pain in the shoulder joint. A TENS machine sends a small electric current into the nerve pathway. This current is not at all painful and can help to block pain fibers that carry the impulses that cause a person to feel pain.

It may take a while to experience relief from a frozen shoulder. Sufferers will need to work with their doctor in order to minimize pain and to help mobility to return to normal. 

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