Okay, frozen shoulder has absolutely NOTHING to do with the weather, but it seems fitting to write this post with the temperatures dropping into the teens and single digits. What is frozen shoulder and where did the terminology come from? The fancy medical term is “adhesive capsulitis”. Basically, our shoulder joint is encased by a dense connective tissue to give our joint stability. While it provides stability, it has to move and extend to allow for full mobility in the shoulder. When this capsular structure adheres to itself, it produces a lot of pain and significantly restricts or “freezes” our movement. While it is largely unknown why people get adhesive capsulitis, there are several studies that support an increased likelihood in a specific population:
- 40-60 years old
- Diabetic Patients (more likely to experience it in both shoulders at some point)
Any shoulder injury can lead to frozen shoulder; when an injury occurs, it is likely that the individual reduces the amount of shoulder use due to pain. With this disuse, the shoulder is not moved through it’s normal ranges of motion and the capsule is not elongated as it is required to do for normal motion. Often this disuse can lead to frozen shoulder. Other times, there is no mechanism of injury, simply an onset of shoulder pain with decreased range of motion.
So what are the options for treatment? A cortisone injection can significantly decrease pain and inflammation, helping to improve the painful symptoms associated with frozen shoulder. After an injection, more mobility gains can typically be made because the pain has been reduced. If you want to regain use of your shoulder in a timely manner, physical therapy is the route to choose. Otherwise, research supports a resolution of symptoms and motion in 2 years without intervention, but who wants to wait this long?!
-Meghan Johnson, Physical Therapist at Dedham Health