Frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. The shoulder is made up of three different bones:
- Humerus – the long bone between the shoulder and elbow
- Scapula – the shoulder blade
- Clavicle – the collar bone
The scapula connects the humerus to the clavicle. The tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint and holds everything together is called the shoulder capsule. Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule becomes so thick and tight it becomes hard to move. Scar tissue will form and there is less synovial fluid to keep the joint lubricated. It will usually get worse before it finally goes away. It can take up to a few years to recover from completely.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
- It is usually caused by a long period of inactivity due to an injury, illness or surgery. The joint area becomes more vulnerable to inflammation and adhesions. In serious cases this can also cause scar tissue to form which will severely limit the range of motion.
Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
- Severe pain and the inability to move the shoulder, with or without assistance
- Frozen Shoulder usually develops in 3 stages
- Freezing – Slow developing pain which continues to worsen as the range of motion decreases. The freezing stage usually last 6-9 months.
- Frozen – Pain may improve during this stage, however stiffness will remain, which will make daily activities very challenging.
- Thawing – Shoulder motion slowly improves during this process. Complete return to normal or close to normal strength and motion can take up to 2 years.
Frozen Shoulder Treatment
- Many different opinions exist on how to treat a frozen shoulder. Generally speaking, most treatments involve controlling the shoulder pain and trying to preserve as much range of motion as possible.
- Recommended over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help with the inflammation
- Therapy – Work with a therapist on exercises to increase the range of motion, improve scapular mobility and strengthen the rotator cuff
- Avoid wearing a sling as this will only continue to limit the range of motion
- Use shoulder whenever possible. It will be painful, especially at first. Use an Artex shoulder wrap to ease the pain when necessary.
- Caution: Avoid placing ice directly on skin as it may cause damage.