‘Frozen shoulder’, a strange term, you might say. It conjures up images of a cold, shivering limb in sub zero temperatures. In some ways, the opposite is true. Adhesive capsulitis, to give it the official title, is in fact an inflammatory condition of the shoulder capsule – inflammation and heat going hand in hand.
The main symptoms of pain and joint stiffness can take a long and frustrating road (up to two years) to run their pathology course. This involves a 3 stage pattern of acute pain, stiffness, and final resolution. It is often called The Fifties shoulder and most common in the 40-60 age range. With women more affected than men links to the menopause and hormonal changes have been suggested as a likely cause. As if there isn’t enough to deal with at that stage! Other risk factors include injury, fractures, diabetes, stroke, thyroid imbalance, and cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that it is self-limiting, benign, and more than 90% will regain full movement. Treatment can involve anti inflammatory tablets or injections, and for more severe cases – surgery. Physiotherapy can help with correct diagnosis and to eliminate other musculoskeletal possibilities. A proper diagnosis is imperative. Treatment is aimed at increasing range of movement, releasing tight structures, learning some strategies and pain relief. Pain relief from treatments really can make this condition a lot more manageable. Increased ease of movement and more range (albeit still limited) can make daily tasks more manageable and lead to less night pain. Acupuncture, Craniosacral Therapy and Dry Needling also offer supportive solutions.
If these symptoms seem familiar, remember that early diagnosis, referral and treatment can go a long way in prevention of long term dysfunction.