GENERAL HEALTH

What is a Frozen shoulder? Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

A frozen shoulder is a common shoulder condition that is usually characterized by a stiff and painful shoulder.

Symptoms of this condition start mainly with pain which slowly leads to restriction of movement.

Treatment involves medication, physiotherapy, home exercises besides others.

D
Dr. Davinder Singh
November 17th, 2020
5 mins read

A frozen shoulder is a common shoulder condition that is usually characterized by a stiff and painful shoulder and medically termed as Adhesive capsulitis. The range of motion of the shoulder is limited which impacts daily activities. The pain in the initial stages is very disturbing.

We need to understand the basics of shoulder anatomy to understand Adhesive capsulitis. A shoulder joint is formed when the head of the upper arm bone (humerus), which is in the shape of a ball, attaches itself to the socket part of the shoulder blade bone (scapula). Connective tissue surrounds this shoulder joint, called the shoulder capsule. When this capsule becomes stiff and thick, it impacts the movement of the joint. The synovial fluid which is responsible to keep the joint lubricated is also reduced which causes even more restriction in movement. This condition is called the frozen shoulder or Adhesive capsulitis.

Signs and Symptoms of frozen shoulder

Symptoms of this condition start mainly with pain which slowly leads to restriction of movement. The range of motion can be restricted in either one direction or multiple. The condition can be categorized into three stages:

First stage

This is normally called the ‘freezing stage’, where the pain is the main symptom. It can start with mild pain and can range up to excruciating pain. Restriction of movement also increases. This stage is about 6 weeks to 9 months in duration.

 

Second Stage

This stage is called the ‘Frozen stage’. This stage mainly entails the symptom of stiffness and hence the term ‘frozen’. The pain may lessen but the restriction of movement increases. The joint will be stiff to perform loads of daily activities. This stage is about 2 to 9 months.

Third stage

This stage is called the ‘thawing stage’. The pain reduces and also the range of motions begins to improve. Risk Factors associated with Frozen shoulder:

  • Frozen shoulder is more common in the age of 40 to 60 years
  • Women are more prone to Frozen shoulder than men.
  • Health conditions such as diabetes are one of the risk factors for frozen shoulder. People with diabetes have more difficulty in recovering from the frozen shoulder as well.
  • Certain surgeries limit the arm movements such as mastectomy.
  • Certain diseases that lead to restriction of shoulder joint such as stroke, fracture of arms, rotator cuff injury etc.

Diagnosis of the frozen shoulder

Your practitioner needs a physical examination to diagnose a frozen shoulder. Symptoms and medical history are asked followed by examining your shoulder and arms. The shoulder shall be moved in every direction to ascertain the range of motions.
Both ranges of motions i.e active and passive are tested. Passive range of motion is where the practitioner moves the shoulder in every direction to know the ranges. Active is when the patient moves the shoulder himself. X-rays may be prescribed to see arthritic changes or other abnormalities.

Treatment of frozen shoulder:

The treatment of frozen shoulder involves a combination of the following to get speedy recovery:

  1. Medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), painkillers, etc can be recommended by doctors.
  2. Physiotherapy to improve the ranges and prevent further restriction of movements.
  3. Home exercises besides the exercises done by the physiotherapist in the center.
  4. Manipulation under anaesthesia, where the practitioner stretches the joint capsule to reduce the tightness.

Physiotherapy in the frozen shoulder:

Your physiotherapist may recommend you few electro-modalities to reduce pain and inflammation. The electro-modalities can include:

  1. Short wave diathermy (S.W.D)
  2. Ultrasound therapy
  3. Interferential therapy (I.F.T)
  4. Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation (TENs)

Physiotherapists also include a complete exercise regime that consists of stretching and strengthening exercises. To increase the joint range of motion, the physiotherapist may also include joint manipulation techniques.

Stretching exercises include active stretching with the help of certain equipment such as shoulder wheel, shoulder ladder, pulley, etc. Strengthening exercises can be done with resistance exercises. The resistance can be provided by physiotherapists, dumbbells, sandbags, and thera-bands.

Apart from the exercises done in the physiotherapy center, it is advised to do exercises at home as taught by the physiotherapist. This will help in achieving a speedy recovery and prevent further restriction of movement. Once recovered, these exercises will help prevent rebound of the frozen shoulder. Although one should be regular with the exercises.

Do you wish to prevent the frozen shoulder? The good news is that the home exercises prescribed to treat the frozen shoulder can be done to prevent the same. It basically includes movement of the shoulder joint in all directions till the full range of motion. Ask your physiotherapist, and he/she shall show you the exercises which can be easily performed at home.

Today, you can easily get in touch with any relevant doctor, physiotherapist, and health expert on the Bajaj Finserv Health platform. You can not only search for doctors near you but also set up appointments, partake in video consultations, and share personal health records for the best diagnosis and advice. Get ready for a journey towards a healthy life!

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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