Does your shoulder hurt or feel pinched when you reach overhead or lift directly to your side? Does your shoulder ache when you try to lean on it, or while sleeping? Does your shoulder hurt or stiffen up or become sore during or after you do repetitive activities such as lifting, swimming, throwing a ball, or swinging a tennis racquet or golf club?
If you are a person who answered yes to most of the questions asked above, and sometimes your shoulder will mysteriously stiffen and become frozen, you may have a condition known as adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder.
If you have ever experienced shoulder pain, you know how debilitating that can be. The shoulder is an extremely complex ball and socket joint, and happens to have the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. However, this large range of motion can cause the shoulder to become unstable, leading to joint problems and the site of multiple injuries. From pain to strain, to the shoulder feeling locked up or frozen, proper care and treatment can go a long way towards optimal mobility.
Shoulder injuries tend to progress gradually, starting with painful pinching of the nerves during overhead movements, called impingement, to loss of strength and pain with lifting objects, and increasing pain with repetitive sports, and lastly, to a partial loss of movement or worse no movement at all, which would be a result of frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis).
Frozen shoulder is not an overuse injury, but the opposite. Frozen shoulder is characterized by how the shoulder sticks or develops a stickiness in the shoulder capsule. In other words, frozen shoulder is a condition that occurs when the glenohumeral joint (GH) loses mobility, or becomes frozen. When someone has frozen shoulder, the muscles of the GH joint contract. The main cause of frozen shoulder is when the body tightens the musculature around the shoulder and freezes the joint, in this case, the glenohumeral joint.
Frozen shoulder is often brought on by immobilization from being in a cast or sling, but also by trauma, or conditions such as bursitis, arthritis, or a rotator cuff tear. After an injury, you may have to rest your shoulder for weeks or even months at a time depending on the injury. During this process, the muscles and tendons tend to lock up.
For those with frozen shoulder it is imperative to attempt to restore their normal range of motion as much as possible. Your orthopedic surgeon will most likely perform hands-on joint mobilization techniques that will free or break up the structures in your shoulder that are causing this painful restriction of movement. Frozen shoulder may also be a cause to an underlying issue in conjunction, such as damage to the rotator cuff.
Treatment and prevention methods for someone with frozen shoulder can be extremely different for each person. There are many options and interventions available, including physical therapy and injections. Finding the best treatment will vary based on the person and the severity of their case of frozen shoulder, and if there are any underlying conditions or injuries affecting the shoulder joint. Treatments for frozen shoulder include corticosteroid injections, surgery, physical therapy, etc. Physiotherapy is the most common and recommended treatment for frozen shoulders. This can include massage, joint mobilizations, stretching, acupuncture, electrotherapy, and exercise.
To learn more about conditions such as frozen shoulder, and how best to diagnose and treat your orthopedic condition or injury, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880, or request an appointment online.