Do you have frozen shoulder?
Nobody wants to receive the cold shoulder and feel purposely ignored, but the pain of bruised feelings is nothing compared to the physical pain that comes with frozen shoulder, an unexplained ailment that affects more than 200,000 people each year.
If you find that doing daily tasks are difficult due to discomfort in your shoulder, only to find that over time, the pain is getting worse, you might have what is called adhesive capsulitis, also known as “frozen shoulder.”
“It is one of the most un- or under-diagnosed conditions in all of shoulder patients I see on a weekly basis,” says Dr. Joseph Norris, an orthopedic surgeon at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the causes of frozen shoulder are not fully understood. It commonly affects those over the age of 40, with women more likely to suffer from it than men. Those with diabetes or thyroid disease have a higher risk of developing the condition, and it can also occur in those who are immobile due to surgery or other medical conditions.
Dr. Norris explains that the covering of the shoulder joint is hard, like a cover for a baseball. In a normal shoulder, this joint capsule is elastic and allows for a great range of motion. With frozen shoulder, the covering itself can get inflamed, thicken and become tough.
“When the cover of the joint is inflamed, if you stretch it or twist it in any direction, it hurts,” Dr. Norris explains. “It limits the motion in every plane.”
There are three phases to adhesive capsulitis:
1) Freezing – Typically lasts from 6 weeks to 9 months. Pain will slowly worsen and shoulder will lose range of motion.
2) Frozen – Lasts 4 to 6 months. Stiffness remains and daily activities can be difficult.
3) Thawing – Can take from 6 months to 2 years. Shoulder motion and strength improves slowly.
“At 18 months, every patient with adhesive capsulitis will eventually regain motion,” says Dr. Norris. “When your shoulder starts to use motion again, it’s all about breaking up those adhesions.”
Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, injections and motion. If symptoms still persist, surgery followed by therapy can help speed up the healing process by cutting out the scar tissue caused by adhesive capsulitis.
“After this type of surgery, the patient’s life is back to normal four weeks later,” says Dr. Norris.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.