“I just thought my shoulder pain was going to get better and go away.” A story doctors and therapists are very familiar with. 

The shoulder complex consists of seven interrelated joints and for reasons not fully understood, the shoulder can present with a benign pain and manifest into a more complex problem called FROZEN SHOULDER. 

Tough connective tissue- called the shoulder capsule-surround the joint and when you have a frozen shoulder, this capsule becomes inflamed, stiff and “sticky.” There is less ability for the shoulder bones to freely move within the joint. For this reason frozen shoulders can also be called adhesive (scarred) capsulitis. Inactivity after even a minor injury can bring it on, although it mostly begins spontaneously. This condition largely affects women over 40, and people with diabetes are at a high risk. Some 10% to 20% of diabetics will get a frozen shoulder at some point. The concern for healthcare workers is a rise in incidence of frozen shoulder, secondary to the aging population and the increase of obesity and diabetes. Treatments vary according to John W. Sperling, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In an article from The Wall Street Journal, 2004, he states, “some physicians believe it will go away without intervention, but most say that a proactive approach offers the best chance of a full recovery. And early diagnosis-when the condition is still in the “freezing” stage- can be the key, orthopedists say. Early physical therapy can lessen the severity and lifespan of the disease, but if the condition isn’t caught early, physical therapy may be required more than a year.”

How do you know you might have a frozen shoulder?

  • Pain/stiffness ranging from several weeks to several months
  • Inability to lie on the involved extremity at night
  • Difficulty hooking a brassiere in the back, combing/washing hair, or reaching for a wallet in the back pocket
  • Currently taking a course of anti-inflammatory for shoulder pain

What can help a frozen shoulder?

  •  Physical Therapy with mobilization, postural awareness training  and modalities to reduce the inflammation
  • Cortisone injections
  • Manipulation under anesthesia
  • Acupuncture