Q: I was just told that I have something called frozen shoulder. What causes this?
A: The connective tissue that surrounds the bones, ligaments and tendons in the shoulder joint thicken and tighten, restricting movement. Some believe this condition occurs due to immobilization for long periods of time after surgery or a fracture.
Q: My shoulder is very painful right now. Is there hope that it will get better?
Symptoms: There are three stages associated with frozen shoulder, and the symptoms involved go according to the stage.
"Painful Stage"- As stated, pain develops with any movement of the shoulder, and range of motion becomes more limited.
"Frozen Stage"- Pain may stay at a high level or may begin to decrease during this stage. The stiffness does worsen within this period, and range of motion becomes noticeably limited. "Thawing Stage"- With this last stage, the range of motion gradually begins to increase and the pain should have dissipated.
Q: Will physical therapy help relieve the pain from a frozen shoulder?
A: The most beneficial treatment if surgery can be avoided is physical or occupational therapy. A therapist will help to stretch the extremity and teach the patient exercises to maintain as much range of motion as possible. If surgery cannot be avoided, there are a few procedures that can be done: distension (injecting sterile water in the joint capsule), shoulder manipulation and surgery to remove scar tissue and adhesions.
Anti-inflammatory medications can be used to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Continue to use the arm in as many daily activities as possible within reasonable pain and range of motion limits. Apply heat or cold to relieve pain aside from painkillers. The most important thing to do is to keep the arm moving. A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit can be used to deliver small electrical currents to points on a nerve pathway. It is used to release endorphins or block pain fibers to make daily life more comfortable. The stimulation is not painful or harmful.
Q: Is there a typical person who is at risk for frozen shoulder?
A: People over 40 are more likely to develop this condition. About 70 percent of the population with frozen shoulder is female. Anyone with prolonged immobility due to rotator cuff injury, a broken arm, stroke, surgery recovery, etc. are at higher risk. Patients with diabetes, overactive thyroid, underactive thyroid, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis and Parkinson's disease are more prone to developing this condition.
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