Frozen shoulder (i.e. adhesive capsulitis) is a condition which affects your ability to move the shoulder. It usually occurs on one side, but it can affect the other shoulder for every one in five people. The medical term, adhesive capsulitis, describes the changes to the capsule around the shoulder joint; adhesive meaning sticky and capsulitis meaning inflammation of the joint capsule. Since the capsule has become inflamed and 'sticky', it makes the joint stiff and difficult to move. This is not the same as arthritis and other joints in the body are usually unaffected.
Frozen shoulder is uncommon among young people and is usually seen in those around the 40 to 70 year age range. There is a higher occurrence of this condition in women and those affected by diabetes.
You may have pain and loss of motion during daily activities such as lifting your arm in front or sideways from your body, reaching your arm behind your body, washing your hair or putting on clothes.
This condition can be described in three phases and the symptoms may differ depending on the phase of the condition.
The Painful Phase
Gradual onset of aching shoulder. Pain is often worst at night and when lying on the affected side.
The Stiffening Phase
Stiffness occurs and you may have difficulty with daily tasks.
The Thawing Phase
Gradual improvement in range of motion with decrease in pain.
Seek medical advice if you think you may have this condition as early intervention can prevent stiffness. Follow advice given by medical professionals as it is important to do the daily exercises at home as prescribed by the physiotherapist.
Try to keep the shoulder moving, even if it is just pendular swing exercises and stretching the arm onto a wall.
If movement is very painful, these exercises should be conducted under the guidance of a physiotherapist or doctor.
To provide some relief, you may apply of a warm towel for 5 to10 minutes prior to exercise. If there is increased pain after the exercise, you can ice the painful area for 10 to 15 minutes.
This condition is usually managed conservatively, with surgery as a last measure if other treatments do not allow you to resume your daily activities. Conservative treatments include physiotherapy, activity modification, pain medications, injection of corticosteroid medication into the joint, hydro-dilatation and shoulder nerve block.
Surgery may be performed in some cases, following failure of conservative treatment methods. Arthroscopic capsular release is the most commonly used technique. This involves dividing the thickened shoulder capsule. Surgery is followed by an intenserehabilitation protocol to restore the range of motion.
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