You may have given people the cold shoulder a few times in your life- but have you ever suffered from a frozen shoulder? This condition, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. These symptoms usually begin gradually and become worse over the course of a few years, and are usually related to a preceding condition or medical procedure. When you notice the signs of a frozen shoulder starting, you should visit an Atlanta orthopedics clinic as soon as possible to prevent worsening of the condition. Read on to learn more about this condition and the best ways to manage the pain and heal the injury.
Identifying Frozen Shoulder
While anyone can develop frozen shoulder, you are at higher risk if you have recently recovered from a medical condition or a procedure that has prevented a full range of motion in your arm. Examples may include a stroke or a mastectomy. It will usually present in only one shoulder at a time and develops slowly, in three stages, each of which can last months. Some people say that the pain is worse at night and causes sleep disturbances, especially if they typically sleep on the impacted side of their body.
The freezing stage begins when any movement of the shoulder causes pain and you notice limits to your range of motion. The next stage, the frozen stage, may actually be accompanied by a lack of pain, though stiffness increases and you may struggle to use your arm or shoulder at all. The final stage is known as the thawing stage, in which the range of motion begins to improve.
Doctors are not sure exactly why some people develop a frozen shoulder while others don’t. It is brought on by the connective tissue of your shoulder thickening and tightening to the point that the movement of muscles, ligaments, and tendons are restricted or prevented. You may be more likely to develop this problem if you meet certain risk factors, including being over 40 years old, particularly for women. Certain systemic illnesses, like diabetes or thyroid problems, may also put you at a higher risk.
Diagnosing a Frozen Shoulder
When you notice signs of a frozen shoulder, you should visit an Atlanta orthopedics clinic as soon as you are able to begin care and prevent future problems. Your orthopedic doctor will perform a physical exam that may include asking you to move in certain ways, relax your muscles while they move your arm, or perform tasks. Both your active range of motion (moving your own arm) and passive range of motion (someone else moving your arm) would be impacted by a true frozen shoulder. This is typically enough to diagnose the condition, though diagnostic scans may also be performed to rule out other issues.
Treatment Options for a Frozen Shoulder
Most treatments for frozen shoulders are focused on controlling pain and preserving as much range of motion as possible. To facilitate this, you may be told to responsibly use over-the-counter medications that address both shoulder pain and inflammation, or even prescribed medication for this purpose. You will likely also be given exercises to perform at home, and possibly with the help of a physical therapist, to maintain and recover range of motion. Being able to cautiously use your arm is one of the best ways to deal with this condition as it preserves movement. Most cases will get better on their own in 12 to 18 months and these methods can be used to manage symptoms during that time.
When symptoms persist, doctors may suggest more invasive methods of treatment. Steroid injections are commonly used to decrease pain and increase mobility and are most effective in the early stages of the process. Sterile water can also be injected into the joint capsule to stretch the tissue and allow for easier movement of the joint.
Doctors may administer general anesthesia to release any tension and allow relaxation as they move your shoulder joint in different directions to loosen the tightened tissue. And in the most severe cases where nothing else has helped, surgery to remove scar tissue and adhesions from inside the shoulder joint may be recommended.
Orthopedic Treatment for a Frozen Shoulder
If you suspect you have a frozen shoulder or fear you are at risk due to recent immobilization, visit AICA Atlanta for a consultation. Our Atlanta orthopedics clinic will be able to diagnose the condition and develop a comprehensive treatment plan, including not only orthopedists, but physical therapists, pain management specialists, and more. Call us today to begin treatment!