What is a frozen shoulder – and how is it treated?

Physiotherapist Jacky Balfour explains:

Shoulder PainFrozen shoulder is the common name for Adhesive Capsulitis. This is a condition where the shoulder becomes very stiff and painful, usually with no history of injury or other obvious causative factor.

The capsule that encloses the shoulder joint becomes inflamed, thickened and tight. The exact cause is not fully understood.

Who typically suffers with a frozen shoulder?

A frozen shoulder is a common condition and is more common in women between the ages of 40 and 60.

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a frozen shoulder.

It can also occur after shoulder injury or surgery which is why it is so important to try and keep the shoulder moving as soon as possible following injury or surgery.

Typical symptoms of frozen shoulder

People suffering from a frozen shoulder present with shoulder and upper arm pain, and increasing stiffness of the shoulder in all movements.

You may complain of difficulty with everyday tasks such as dressing:- doing up a bra or putting on a jacket, brushing hair, reaching for a seatbelt or reaching up to a high cupboard. You often have pain at night and find that you are unable to sleep on the affected side.

The symptoms progress gradually and the whole process may take 18-24 months. The pain usually settles with time but the stiffness may persist.

Treatment for frozen shoulder

Physiotherapy can help to maintain the range of movement at the shoulder using stretches and exercises. Painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are often prescribed.

Other treatments can include cortisone injections and a procedure known as ‘hydro-dilatation’ where fluid is pumped into the shoulder joint  to stretch the capsule. It is important to have physiotherapy treatment after this to maintain mobility and re-gain strength.

There are many other conditions that can affect the shoulder but the marked stiffness combined with pain is usually the hallmark of a frozen shoulder.

Are you suffering from shoulder pain? Call  020 8943 2424  and we can help you.

Jacky Balfour physiotherapist teddington

Jacky Balfour, Physiotherapist, Waldegrave Clinic

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