Frozen Shoulder: Its Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Frozen Shoulder by Perfect Health Magazine

Quick 30 Seconds Summary of Frozen Shoulder

  • Frozen shoulder is known as adhesive capsulitis is a subset of joint pain in the body. 
  • Frozen shoulder causes stiffness and limits the range of motion in the patient. 
  • Age, strokes, diabetes and other medical conditions can cause frozen shoulder. 
  • Physical therapy, medication and in some cases surgery can restore the shoulder to its previous state. 
  • Alternative therapies like Ayurveda and Homeopathy offer great relief to frozen shoulder patients.

Frozen shoulders are also called adhesive capsulitis. It is a kind of joint pain in which a patient gradually loses the shoulder’s joint movement. It usually starts with the pain in the upper shoulder joint. In frozen shoulder conditions, the joints become stiff, which results in their limited movement.

In case of frozen shoulder, the patient will get achy pain in one of the shoulder. He may also get pain in the shoulder muscle which wraps the top of your arm. Such pain worsens during nighttime.

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen Shoulder is also called adhesive capsulitis. It usually starts with the pain in the upper shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder causes the joints to become stiff, which results in their limited movement. 

In the case of a frozen shoulder, the patient will get aches in one of the shoulders. He may also get pain in the shoulder muscle which wraps the top of the arm. Such pain worsens during night time and winters.

Different stages of frozen shoulder

Typically there are 3 stages of frozen shoulder, and each of them has its symptoms.

Freezing stage:

  • Development of shoulder pain (sometimes severe) while moving your shoulder.
  • Gradually this pain may become severe, especially during nighttime.
  • Such pain can last between 6-9 months.
  • Your shoulder movement will get limitations.

Frozen Stage

  • You may get relief from pain, but stiffness will increase
  • Shoulder movement will become difficult, and it will affect your daily chores.
  • This stage may last for 4-12 months.

Thawing Stage

  • Your shoulder movement will get back to normal.
  • This may take 6-12 months.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

Scientifically, it is not very clear why some people develop a frozen shoulder. 

However here are some common causes of Frozen Shoulder: 

  • Age: The age group of 40-60 years is at a higher risk of frozen shoulder.
  • Medical Conditions: Patients, who are recovering from severe disease like stroke, may get frozen shoulders.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can cause adhesive capsulitis. Around 10-20% of diabetic patients are bound to suffer from this at some point in theri life.
  • Other Causes: Other diseases like heart, thyroid can also cause frozen shoulders.

When To See A Doctor For Frozen Shoulder?

If you are experiencing unexplained shoulder pain on the uppermost sides, it’s always better to consult a doctor immediately. The doctor can figure out the exact cause of pain and prescribe some medications or exercise in case of frozen shoulder.

Diagnosis of frozen shoulder

The primary step is a complete physical examination of your shoulder by a qualified doctor. 

Then only if necessary he may perform MRI and X-ray to know the potential cause of the painful shoulder or its limited range of motion.

Treatment of frozen shoulder

There are a wide array of treatments available for frozen shoulder, let’s know about them in detail:

Physical Therapy

The main aim of this treatment is to increase shoulder movement and decrease pain. Usually, physical therapy is suggested by doctors to improve shoulder motion. The therapist will gradually move the patient’s arm to stretch the capsule. He will also suggest some exercises for shoulder mobility.

Your physician may recommend some anti-inflammatory medications to give you relief from pain after therapy or maybe to get a good night’s sleep.

Medications

Your doctor may suggest over-the-counter pills like asprin to reduce the shoulder pain. Sometimes he may give you higher doses of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Surgical and other procedures

Steroid injections: In early-stage your doctor may inject corticosteroids to improve shoulder movement and decrease pain.

Joint distension: Injection of sterile water in joints can help in stretching the tissue to relieve pain.

Surgery: In frozen shoulder surgery is very rarely done. But if you haven’t got relief from this problem for a longer duration, the doctor may remove the scars tissues from the shoulder through surgery.

The Timeline For Complete Rehabilitation

Your therapy sessions will vary from 1-6 weeks. You need to visit for therapy once or thrice a week as the physician recommends. 

Along with this, you must participate in the home exercise as directed. As mentioned earlier, you must do the stretching exercise either once or twice a day. 

You will get rid of this problem with time and by sticking with the exercise schedule prescribed. 

It may take 6-9 months for some patients to get relief from the frozen shoulder, while for others; it may take only a few months.

How Do Alternative Therapies Treat Frozen Shoulder?

Alternative therapies have shown exceptional results for frozen shoulder. These therapies rely on natural elements to help the body heal.

Homeopathy treatment of frozen shoulder

Rhus Toxicodendron: This is a top grade medicine which is suitable for long-standing case of shoulder stiffness. It is made from fresh leaves of plant which belongs to Anacardiaceae family.

Apart from this Sanguinaria Canadensis and Ferrum Metallicum are usually taken for the pain in right side and left side shoulder respectively.

Ayurvedic treatment for frozen shoulder

A general line of treatment is recommended in Ayurveda for frozen shoulders. This includes:
Snehana: This is all about application of ghee, or herbal oil to expel the pain out from the body.
Swedana: In this hot and moist substance is applied on the body to relieve pain.
Basti: This is a bowel cleaning technique.

Along with the above treatments, Ayurveda also recommends some healthy diet (ahar) and changes in lifestyle to control the condition.

Risk Factors Associated With Frozen Shoulder

Certain factors can enhance the chances of frozen shoulder 

Age and sex: Usually, women above 40 years old are more likely to develop frozen shoulder. 

Limited shoulder mobility: People with prolonged reduced shoulder mobility are more likely to have this problem. Such immobility may be due to surgery, a broken arm, or a stroke. 

Systemic disease: People who have a certain type of disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease are more likely to get frozen shoulders.

When is surgery required?

Even after taking regular therapy sessions and following the guidelines at home, your doctor may suggest surgery if you are not getting enough relief. 

Surgery involves giving local anesthesia to the patient, and the physician will break the scar present in the capsule.

 Sometimes arthroscopy is used to cut the adhesion directly. The arthroscope is a small instrument containing a small camera placed in the shoulder by making an incision. 

Even after surgery, physical exercise is necessary for the patient. Usually the recovery time varies from 6 weeks to 3 months.

Preventive Care For Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder may happen because of shoulder immobility because of any injury, broken arm, or stroke. If you cannot make a shoulder movement due to injury, you can consult your doctor for some exercise to improve the movement.

Conclusion

Doing regular exercise and taking prescribed medications will surely give you relief from frozen shoulder pain. Frozen shoulder, if left untreated, will continue to get better on its own, but in that case the recovery time will be around two years.