Frozen shoulder is a condition that affects both men and women in which the shoulder becomes painful initially and then very stiff. It affects normal daily activities, like brushing hair and getting dressed and driving. It mostly occurs in patients between the ages of 40 and 65 years of age and it usually lasts 1- 2 years.
What causes frozen shoulder?
When a patient arrives at the clinic, they usually say that they can’t remember ‘hurting it’ and say that the pain started for no particular reason. There are some people more prone to this condition than others, those with Diabetes or a heart or lung disease.
Frozen shoulder occurs when there is swelling and thickening of the stretchy covering that surrounds your shoulder joint. This tissue is known as a capsule. In cases of frozen shoulder, it seems that bands of scar tissue form inside this tissue, causing it to thicken, swell and tighten.
Stages of Frozen Shoulder
There are usually 3 phases of variable duration of the condition. Initially the patient complains of increasing pain with normal daily activities and later on the shoulder becomes stiffer. This phase can last anything from 2 to 9 months. In the second stage, the pain stops getting worse or may improve, but the shoulder stiffness is worst- ‘frozen’ and is quite debilitating. This stage lasts from 4-9 months. Finally, the pain subsides and the shoulder gradually regains movement ‘thaws’.
Physiotherapy for Frozen Shoulder
It is a common occurence that a patient would arrive in the clinic complaining of a frozen shoulder, when they may have a different shoulder condition. A Chartered Physiotherapist will ask you lots of questions to ensure that you are treated correctly. At all stages of the condition, physiotherapy is aimed at reducing pain and maintaining movement, education about the condition and encouraging normal movement. It is really important to try to use the shoulder as much as possible. Ice and heat may help with symptoms. Your General Practitioner may suggest a corticosteroid injection also. The combination of injection and physiotherapy has been found in research to be helpful to relieve symptoms.