People suffering from a frozen shoulder have pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving their shoulder joint. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, a frozen shoulder typically develops gradually over time.
Although it can be related to injury, immobility, or disease, the cause can often be undetermined. The onset is gradual, gets worse, then improves, usually within one to three years.
There are three bones in the shoulder joint — the scapula, clavicle, and humerus. The joint is lubricated with synovial fluid and surrounded by connective tissue known as the shoulder capsule which helps to keep things in place.
With a frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes tighter as scar tissue forms and there is a reduced amount of synovial fluid.
People with a frozen shoulder report pain and stiffness, and have difficulty moving the joint, with the pain often being worse at night and when the joint is immobile for periods of time. In extreme cases it can be difficult to raise your arms or hold a cup.
A frozen shoulder typically progresses in three stages: the freezing stage, which can last anywhere from 7-10 months, the frozen stage, which can last 3-10 months, and the thawing stage where the shoulder returns to normal. This can take up to two years.
Although there are known risk factors, there is not always an attributable cause. Frozen shoulders are more common in people over the age of 40, and are also more commonly seen in women. Other risk factors include injury, especially where the joint must be immobilized for a period of time such as a broken arm.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop a frozen shoulder. Other risk factors include cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and having an underactive or overactive thyroid.
Treatment for a frozen should usually focuses on range of motion and stretching exercises, with 90 percent of people recovering within three years.
How Apex Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder, the health professionals at the Apex Centre can apply a range of therapies and exercises designed to speed your recovery and reduce the scar tissue in your shoulder joint.
Physiotherapy and massage therapy may be indicated to help restore range of motion and increase synovial fluid, while our athletic therapists will develop an exercise program designed to shorten recovery time and prevent a the injury from returning.