Frozen Shoulder—Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Treating the Loss of Motion in Your Shoulder Joint
Have you lost motion or flexibility in one of your shoulders, unable to extend the joint very far vertically or laterally? Do you experience pain in your shoulder, even when you’re not using it? It’s possible that you have a condition known as “frozen shoulder,” or by the medical term “adhesive capsulitis.” It’s far more prevalent in individuals 40 years of age and older, and is more commonly diagnosed in women.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is customarily tied to an inflammation of the ligaments in and around your shoulder. Your ligaments hold your bones together. If your shoulder capsule gets tight or thickens, you can develop stiff bands of tissue that reduce flexibility—those bands are known as adhesions. Frozen shoulder is more likely to occur in those who have suffered a shoulder injury or had a shoulder immobilized for some period of time. It’s also more common with people who suffer from Parkinson’s, heart disease, or hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism.
To diagnose frozen shoulder, a doctor typically starts with a physical exam. Based on what the doctor observes, an X-ray and/or MRI may be required.
Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder
There are both surgical (invasive) and non-surgical (non-invasive) approaches to address a frozen shoulder. Non-invasive options include the following:
- Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and range of motion;
- Steroid injections to relieve pain;
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, either over-the-counter or by prescription; and
- Heat, ice, and gentle massage to ease pain and improve range of motion.
Surgical options may be done arthroscopically or through other surgical procedures. The objective of a surgical procedure is usually to remove scar tissue (which can inhibit motion) or dissect any ligaments that have become stiff or inflexible. Regardless of the type of surgical procedure, it’s customary to have some level of physical therapy post-surgery to help reestablish strength and flexibility.