What is frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is a condition that leads to pain and stiffness of the shoulder. It is also known as adhesive capsulitis or shoulder contracture.
Most people who get frozen shoulder are aged between 40 and 60. Around 1 in 20 people in the UK may be affected by frozen shoulder at some point in their life, with women being more commonly affected than men.
What causes frozen shoulder?
It is not fully understood what causes frozen shoulder but the following can increase your risk of developing it:
- previous shoulder injury or shoulder surgery
- Dupuytren’s contracture
- other health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
Frozen shoulder develops when the capsule, which is the flexible tissue surrounding the joint, becomes inflamed and thickened, causing pain and restricting movement of the shoulder in all directions.
How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?
We’ll ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Then we’ll carry out a thorough physical examination and test the range of movement in your shoulder. Before we can make any recommendations it is important to confirm that the pain you are experiencing is frozen shoulder and not another shoulder-related condition. You may be referred for further tests to rule out other possible health conditions, such as a blood test for diabetes, X-ray for arthritis, and ultrasound or MRI for tendon and bursa problems.
What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?
As the pain and stiffness develops it typically goes through 3 stages.
- Freezing: your shoulder will be very painful, especially when you move or knock it, and at night when you lie on the affected side. It becomes progressively stiffer.
- Frozen: shoulder movements will be severely restricted, but there should be no further reduction in range from this point. Typically less painful now.
- Thawing: you gradually regain flexibility in your shoulder.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, book a shoulder assessment with our dedicated and caring team at The Forge Clinic on 020 8332 6184.
Our approach to treating Frozen Shoulder at The Forge Clinic, Richmond
Treatment for frozen shoulder will depend on the stage and severity of the condition, and will be tailored to your specific needs.
Early stage of frozen shoulder
Our focus will be mainly on relieving the pain, helping you to sleep at night, and preventing further stiffening of the shoulder. Treatment will include manual therapy or acupuncture to address painful, contracted muscles and trigger points. It’s important to keep the joint mobile while the shoulder heals, but to prevent the pain worsening you should avoid movements, such as forcibly stretching your shoulder. We can advise you on correct posture and gentle exercises to do at home.
Later stages of frozen shoulder
Our focus will be to restore mobility in your shoulder and promote healing so you can return to normal activities. Your treatment plan may consist of stretching techniques to move the joint in all directions, massage therapy and a shoulder exercise programme to follow at home. If necessary, we will also teach you appropriate remedial exercises to rehabilitate weakened muscles.
Other treatments for frozen shoulder could include: steroid injections; hydrodilatation (fluid injection into the joint to expand and stretch it); manipulation under anaesthetic to stretch the capsule of the joint; and surgical release techniques. We will be able to advise you on the various approaches. Oral painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs may help to manage the pain.
A frozen shoulder should get better over time without treatment, but recovery is often slow and can typically take at least 18 months to two years.
It is important to get a frozen shoulder correctly diagnosed as soon as possible, in order to determine appropriate treatment. This will hopefully prevent long-term pain and stiffness, and the need for more drastic procedures.