Frozen Shoulder – What is it?
Do you experience sudden pain and stiffness in your shoulder? Do you feel like your arm is restricted in every direction when you try to move it? If you answered yes, then you may be experiencing a condition called “Frozen Shoulder” or medically termed, “Adhesive Capsulitis”. Adhesive Capsulitis can be quite debilitating, but there are ways to manage the condition with the help of physiotherapy!
What is Adhesive Capsulitis?
Adhesive Capsulitis is a condition characterized by a spontaneous onset of pain and stiffness within the shoulder due to the thickening of the joint capsule. Typically, the symptoms you experience get worse over time, such as pain throughout the day and night, and stiffness in all directions of movement. However, it is a self-limiting condition, which means that it will gradually resolve itself with time! Adhesive Capsulitis chronologically progresses through 4 different phases:
- Early phase:
You experience sharp pain at the end of your range of movement. Achy pain is present at rest and your sleep may be disturbed due to the pain in your shoulder. You may also be easily irritated in this phase.
- Freezing phase:
You experience severe and constant pain, which causes night pain and disturbances in your sleep. You will be irritable and will gradually begin to lose your range of movement in the shoulder.
- Frozen phase:
You experience maximal stiffness in the shoulder; this means that you will have a significant loss in your range of movement in all directions. You will continue to experience pain in this phase.
- Thawing phase:
Your symptoms of pain and stiffness will begin to gradually resolve.
What causes Adhesive Capsulitis?
Unfortunately, there is no clear understanding as to why this condition arises. Based on some research, there are a few risk factors that may increase your chance of developing the condition:
- Typically happens in people between ages 40-60 years old
- Tends to be more prevalent in women than men
- Usually develops in the non-dominant arm, but can also develop on the dominant side
- Diabetes and hyper- or hypothyroidism are the main risk factors
- Other health conditions as risk factors: Cardiovascular Disease, Tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease
What can physiotherapy do for Adhesive Capsulitis?
Adhesive Capsulitis is very painful, especially within the first few stages. This will limit the amount of work and movement physiotherapy can accomplish in the shoulder. With this in mind, we have divided up appropriate treatment methods based on the phase you are in! In earlier phases, physiotherapy will focus on controlling the pain, while in later phases, it will focus on stretching and strengthening the joint capsule of the shoulder.
First things first! We need to manage the pain you are experiencing! During the first 2 phases of the condition (early and freezing), your physiotherapist will work with you to modify activities in your daily life to ensure that you can function within a pain-free range. Additionally, corticosteroid injections, in combination with physiotherapy stretches and exercises, can be beneficial during these 2 phases as well! Corticosteroid injections can help as a short-term method for pain relief in order to assist with getting that shoulder moving ASAP. However, be sure to discuss with your physiotherapist and physician to see if this is the right path for you.
In the later 2 phases of the condition (frozen and thawing), physiotherapists will perform manual therapy techniques on your shoulder, in combination with more stretches and strengthening exercises. These are performed to maximize your shoulder’s ability to regain its original range of movement.
How long does it take to resolve Adhesive Capsulitis?
It varies! However, this condition typically does take some time to resolve itself. The average recovery time is approximately 2 years. That’s a long time! Keep in mind that everyone recovers differently and therefore, this timeframe can be shorter or longer; it really depends on how well your shoulder reacts to regaining range of movement. Since this condition is self-limiting, technically, no treatment intervention is okay as well. With that being said, leaving your shoulder untreated will result in a longer recovery time to regain your original range of movement.
At Boost Physiotherapy, we are ready to help you with any pain or stiffness that you are experiencing. If you think that you may be developing Adhesive Capsulitis, talk to one of our physiotherapists! They will happily work with you to determine what treatment option is best to resolve your condition. If you have further questions regarding Adhesive Capsulitis, book an appointment online or call us today at 587-635-5555 (South Edmonton) or 780-591-5555 (Stony Plain). Our physiotherapists will be happy to assist you in any way!
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