A frozen shoulder is when the joint has significant loss of range of motion in all directions. It is often associated with significant pain in the shoulder when moving, but some patients report just the inability to raise their arm overhead (even without pain). The other interesting piece is that most people don’t report an injury that caused the frozen shoulder, it’s often reported that the motion resistance is sudden. There are no definitive causes of this condition, but we do know that long-term immobility of the shoulder joint and anyone with diabetes can be at risk to develop a the condition. We also believe that repetitive trauma (or use and abuse) over time will predispose people to frozen shoulder.
So what happens in frozen shoulder? Well, it is the result of inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint to where it tightens down on the joint and locks it up, thus the medical term adhesive capsulitis. This condition can be difficult to treat, but we do see fantastic results with rehab exercises (especially those that strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade) and manual therapy like deep tissue massage and stretching. Low level laser therapy (LLLT) can also be helpful for this condition.
The final take-home points are that if you get adhesive capsulitis in one arm, then you are even more likely to get it in the other arm. It is possibly because the good arm is overused, or it possibly because what caused the first shoulder problem still exists in the other (e.g. weak muscles, poor range of motion, poor sleeping habits, diabetes). Finally, for this condition, the sooner you get treatment, the shorter your recovery is by as much as 18 months!
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