What is a frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulders is a common shoulder condition which tends to affect middle aged individuals especially women and those who have diabetes or has had a history of trauma or injury to the shoulder.. The condition is still poorly understood and treatments currently available seem to have very mixed outcomes. Causes of frozen shoulder is still unknown but the common characteristics of a frozen shoulder is that of a thickened shoulder capsule and its surrounding ligaments. Frozen shoulders do take a long time to recover, ranging from a few months up to 2-3 years.
How do I know if I have a frozen shoulder?
Signs and symptoms of a frozen shoulder injury may include:
- Global restriction of shoulder range of movement i.e. limited movement in all your shoulder movements
- Pain present in the shoulder usually with overhead movements
- Shoulder stiffness
- Tenderness over the upper region of the neck
How is a frozen shoulder diagnosed and managed?
It is usually diagnosed through a physical examination carried out by a Doctor or Physiotherapist. A plain film X-ray is routinely taken to exclude other causes of shoulder pain to ensure that there is no other cause for your symptoms. Surgical interventions are available such as a capsular release or hydrodilation but evidence behind these two treatments are mixed hence the scarcity of specialists performing them.
How can Physiotherapy help?
The Physiotherapist will carry out an assessment of your shoulder region to determine what are the movements which are the most painful and restricted. This would include an assessment of the range of movements in your shoulder, the mobility of the shoulder joint and the flexibility of the surrounding muscles. The role of Physiotherapy is to assist with maintaining the shoulder joint’s range of movement and strength to allow functional activities to be carried out as normally as possible.
Treatment may include but is not limited to:
- Advise and education pertaining to your condition
- Soft tissue therapy
- Joint mobilisation of the shoulder joint
- Personalised home exercise program
- Heat therapy
- Mobilisation with movement techniques
- Dry needling
How can I keep myself from getting a frozen shoulder?
Due to the unknown nature of frozen shoulders, it is difficult to make scientifically based recommendations for the prevention of this condition. However some habits which are good to adopt which may help are to keep good shoulder mobility and strength. In addition, having a good desk setup and ergonomics when working might be beneficial.
Are steroid injections for frozen shoulder safe?
Yes, they are generally safe and this is usually done by a licensed practitioner. The specialist will take extra care in screening the suitability for the steroid injection before administering the injection. After the steroid injection is being administered, it is crucial that you visit a Physiotherapist who will be able to get you started on mobility exercises as soon as possible to help you obtain the best outcome.
Will I get full range of motion back after a frozen shoulder?
In quite a number of frozen shoulder cases, the range of motion might not be able to be fully restored but it will normally return to a functional level. It is also important to know that the functional range of motion will also take a period of time, sometimes up to 3 years, to properly recover.