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Healing & Dealing With Frozen Shoulder

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Healing and Dealing With Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, while this name is fanciful, its symptoms are anything but. Characterized by a dwindle in your range of motion and excruciating pain. Most times in just one of your shoulders. It can be a waking nightmare, and most times, the pain will wake you from your peaceful slumber. 

While 90% of the cases will resolve with or without treatment. It can be a long arduous journey spanning anywhere between 6 months to 3 years. I can only imagine your disbelief right now. This seems like an unnecessary amount of time to keep tolerating this pain. That brings us to the topic of this blog. What options are out there when it comes to dealing with this pain? But first…

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is a disorder that results in stiffness, loss of range of motion and an excess of pain in your shoulder joint. A range of factors can lead to this condition. With the top contenders being fractures/injuries or inflammations of the soft tissues due to bursitis or tendinitis of the rotator cuff. 

With the immobilization of your shoulder, connective tissue surrounding your joint capsule thickens and contracts, gradually reducing your range of motion and stretching. The humerus might have less space to move in and an additional loss in synovial fluid. At its extreme, adhesions form between the head of the humerus and joint capsule. 

 

The Three Stages of Frozen Shoulder Development?

It might take two to nine months for a frozen shoulder to develop, and gradually a range of symptoms will be displayed.

The Painful Stage - Whether you’re moving your shoulder or not at this stage doesn’t matter. Pain will be a constant companion, worsening at night. You might find yourself using this arm less and less. Resulting in a gradually stiffening and loss of range of motion. 

Frozen Stage - The pain is significantly less as at this point you have an aversion for this arm. Your shoulder becomes stiffer and your range of motion is at an all time low. 

Thawing Stage - Finally a glimmer of hope. Range of motion starts to improve but the pain is still a recurrent feature. A long journey lies ahead if complete recovery is what you desire.

 

Am I Susceptible to Frozen Shoulder?

There are certain risk factors that might result in an increased chance of this disorder. More often than not, this condition affects people 40 years or older. With women being slightly more prone to it. Additionally a prolonged stretch of immobility of the shoulder increases the risk exponentially. This could be due to;

  • Rotator cuff injury 
  • A broken arm 
  • Recovery from surgery or a stroke 

Pre-existing medical conditions can also be a huge determinant;

  • Diabetes (frozen shoulder is 5 times more likely)
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Thyroid disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

 

How Do You Ensure A Safe and Gradual Recovery?

Treatment Options and Recovery from a Frozen Shoulder  

Physical Therapy - If you have been to a Physical therapist and received a diagnosis. You can begin the marathon of a recovery journey. The exercises centered around this treatment can be grouped into two: Stretching and strengthening exercises. Luckily most of these exercises can be done at home. Your goal is to reach a point of mild pain and not overwork your already ailing shoulder. DO NOT push too far and seek out the appropriate exercises. As slight missteps might cause an enormous amount of pain. Derailing your recovery journey.

 

Painkillers and Medications - A lingering issue with this condition is pain. Often your caregiver will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. These should however be taken with caution and under a doctor’s supervision. Overuse of these medications might lead to a decline in  liver and kidney functions. You do not want to be passing a kidney stone anytime soon. The pain is absolutely horrendous.

 

Local Therapy - An ice pack is a great option to relieve some of the pain. 

  • A corticosteroid injection to nearby soft tissue. 
  • Acupuncture 
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation 

 

Surgery - This is often a last resort when all other forms of therapy fail to relieve you of this issue. Some of these surgical remedies are;

  • Hydrodilatation or Joint distension: This involves injecting sterile water into the joint to loosen and expand the shoulder.
  • Arthroscopic capsular release: making incisions on the tight joint capsule portions, giving the socket more freedom to move.
  • Shoulder manipulation: Under a local anesthetic, the doctor will move the shoulder in a myriad of directions in an attempt to loosen the tightened tissue.

Recovery time from a surgical procedure may last anywhere between 6 weeks to 3 months.

 

A diagnosis of Frozen shoulder can really dampen your day. It will take a considerable amount of time to resolve the pain and stiffness. However with the right exercises and care, you can make the whole experience a whole lot better.

 

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