Frozen Shoulder – By Physio4Life Senior Physiotherapist & Shoulder Specialist, Sam Downer

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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a common condition that affects many people, and no it’s not just something you get in winter! It tends to affect people in the age group between 40 and 60, predominantly women and oddly enough is more likely to develop in the left shoulder. People with thyroid problems and who suffer from diabetes are again more susceptible to the condition.
So what is frozen shoulder all about?
Essentially frozen shoulder is a slang term for the more medically known; adhesive capsulitis. The problem frequently develops spontaneously but can follow on from trauma or surgery. It is a painful condition whereby, the capsule which surrounds the shoulder and some of the ligaments in the shoulder become inflamed and begin to fibrose (where new, toughened tissue is formed reactively) resulting in a global tightening around the shoulder(hence where the name frozen shoulder comes from). This will lead to progressive pain, which is particularly sore at night time, and will ultimately result in a reduction of movement. Common functional restrictions include; pain getting dressed; in particular doing up a bra strap and putting on a coat, lying on the affected shoulder and performing any activities that are above shoulder height.
It can be treated through various different methods, but to ensure that the best treatment is given to you it is important to be assessed and have an accurate diagnosis. Frozen shoulder can easily be mistaken for other shoulder pathologies, such as subacromial pain syndrome and thus a thorough assessment should be conducted prior to any treatment.
Physiotherapy plays a large part in the treatment of frozen shoulder. It can provide a combination of manual therapy as well as helping you to develop a specific stretching programme which will help maintain movement and reduce pain. Stretching has been shown to be one of the most important interventions for a successful recovery.
Other interventions commonly used are cortico steroid injection, which have been shown to improve pain and function for periods of up to 6 weeks which may be beneficial to have done in conjunction with physiotherapy. Hydrodilatation is another alternative which encompasses injecting cortisone and saline to settle inflammation and stretch the capsule.
Frozen shoulder is a condition that can last up to 2 years with varying degrees of severity. Frequently, with good treatment, it can be well managed and stopped from impacting too severely on your life.

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