• Chris Purcell

It is not just the temperature that can be freezing?

What you need to know about Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a term used to described a certain shoulder condition that is medically known as adhesive capsulitis. The shoulder becomes stiff and painful and is often very difficult to move.

The name adhesive capsulitis comes from the fact that the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes thickened and there can be the presence of adhesions that make the joint capsule tight. This is why the shoulder becomes painful and difficult to move. To this day, we still don't know a lot about exactly what causes a frozen shoulder however from research we do know a few things about factors that make it more likely that you will get a frozen shoulder.

1. Females are more likely than males to develop the condition

2. Age - those over 40 years of age are more likely

3. Immobilisation - those that have had their shoulder immobilised for an extended period due to trauma or injury such as fracture.

4. Diabetes - There are no real known reasons why, but frozen shoulder is thought to occur in between 10-20% of the diabetic population.

Frozen shoulders typically go through the following stages, each of which can last up to several months (in some cases 6 months).

1. Freezing stage - this is when the shoulder starts to stiffen. This is when the pain from the condition is at its worst.

2. Frozen stage - this is the point of maximum stiffness in the shoulder. Pain does not normally get worse in the stage and may start to settle.

3. Thawing stage - pain eases, and movement starts to improve. The capsule is now returning to its normal state.

If you have pain and or stiffness in the shoulder then it is important to have you condition assessed by a physiotherapist or other professional. A thorough history and examination needs to be undertaken. Frozen shoulder is often diagnosed after all other causes for the pain and stiffness have been eliminated. Once diagnosed, physiotherapy must focus on exercise and range of motion based intervention as this is the best approach. Given the extended nature of the condition, physiotherapy intervention should set you up on a largely self-directed exercise program that is reviewed approximately monthly to ensure it's effectiveness. See your doctor for adequate pain relief strategies if needed as well.

On occasion for severe cases of adhesive capsulitis, invasive intervention such as injection, hydro dilatation of the joint and even surgical intervention can be considered. This would need to be discussed with your treating physio and medical providers.

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