Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a common cause of shoulder pain and stiffness that commonly affects patients above the age of 40. A thin capsule usually covers the shoulder joint. When this capsule gets inflamed, it causes pain, and the shoulder becomes stiff. This usually resolves with time.
What Causes a Frozen Shoulder?
As mentioned above, the shoulder joint is covered by a thin capsule of connective tissue. When this connective tissue tightens and thickens, it restricts the movement of your shoulder. This is what causes a frozen shoulder.
Most commonly, frozen shoulder is a secondary result of underlying shoulder injuries such as shoulder impingement, rotator cuff injury, shoulder dislocation, or SLAP tear.
Frozen shoulder also tends to occur in people who have recently suffered a shoulder fracture or in cases where the arm has had to be immobilised.
Additionally, frozen shoulder is also seen in patients with hormonal problems like diabetes and thyroid issues, heart problems like heart attack and neurological problems like stroke.
What are the Symptoms of a Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder tends to develop in stages – freezing, frozen, and thawing. It starts with a pain that is felt when you move your arm, develops into stiffness, and then slowly, your range of movement should improve.
If you are suffering from a frozen shoulder, you may experience these symptoms:
- Stiffness or a dull ache and pain
- Pain has lasted months
- Pain reaching the upper arm
Frozen Shoulder Treatment
Typically, treatment plans for a frozen shoulder are non-surgical. Doctors will usually recommend a non-surgical treatment plan to alleviate a frozen shoulder. However, in a small percentage of cases, you may require surgery.
Non-surgical treatment of a frozen shoulder may involve the injection of corticosteroids that help reduce the inflammation. You may also be prescribed numbing medications to ease the pain of a frozen shoulder. A range of exercises that help with your range of movement may also be recommended.
Surgery to treat a frozen shoulder is done arthroscopically. During surgery, the inflamed and thickened joint capsule is cut to allow you to move your shoulder freely. Often, other shoulder problems like impingement or rotator cuff tears that have resulted in the frozen shoulder will be addressed during the surgery.