What do you know about frozen shoulder?

BY: Catherine Oppong

WHAT comes to your mind when you hear frozen shoulder? Are you wondering if it is actually frozen and we have to defrost it? Well, a frozen shoulder does not necessarily mean the shoulder is ‘frozen’.

When you have a frozen shoulder, simple activities like combing your hair or reaching up to pick an object off an overhead shelf becomes nearly impossible.

It feels like the shoulder is stuck in a position it cannot go beyond.

How does a frozen shoulder happen?
The shoulder is surrounded by a flexible tissue called the capsule, which contains fluids that protect and lubricate the joint to allow easy movement.

When the capsule gets irritated or inflamed, it loses its ability to stretch.

It thickens and tightens around the joint, causing pain and limitations in shoulder movements. With time, the capsule begins to shrink and scar tissues (adhesions) form, leaving less room for the arm to move around.

This is why frozen shoulder is also known as Adhesive Capsulitis.

What causes a frozen shoulder?
Even though the exact cause is unknown, some factors may influence your capsule's inflammation.

These include previous shoulder injuries and prolonged shoulder immobility, especially after a fracture, stroke or arm injury.

Conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disorders may increase your risk of getting a frozen shoulder.
Other factors like using an arm sling for long periods without intermittent stretches can also increase your risk.

Signs that you may have a frozen shoulder
Frozen shoulder will usually start with pain which gradually results in stiffness and reduction in your shoulder's range of movement.

If you have a frozen shoulder, you may have difficulty performing daily activities like picking an item overhead, dressing up, and pulling your wallet from the back pocket.

Physiotherapy management for frozen shoulder
Treatment for a frozen shoulder focuses on relieving pain and restoring the normal range of motion or lost functions.
However, there are different stages, and these require different treatment approaches.

The first phase (freezing stage) is characterised by pain.
Your physiotherapist will focus on pain relief and gentle shoulder modifications or stretches within your pain limit.

There is stiffness and loss of shoulder mobility for the second phase (frozen stage); hence, your treatment will involve exercises that will help you regain your shoulder motion and strength.

During the third and final phase (thawing stage), there is usually a gradual return of the range of motion.
The therapy will include strengthening exercises to help you regain full movement and strength.

Full recovery from a frozen shoulder takes time, usually from several months to two or three years. But, if you diligently follow your exercise and treatment plan, you'll more likely be able to resume your usual level of activity.
Talk to a physiotherapist today if you have or know anyone with a frozen shoulder.
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