Shoulder joint pain can really get in the way of daily activities and often becomes more painful at night, disrupting normal sleep. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket surrounded by strong connective tissue called shoulder capsule. Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, can come on slowly and causes a feeling of stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Unfortunately, any pain or injury involving your shoulder can lead to frozen shoulder if you don’t continue to use the joint normally. When frozen shoulder symptoms are present, it’s important to pinpoint the source and reason for the pain.
What causes frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder may occur post-surgery, after an injury, from the overuse of the shoulder joint, or because of a disease such as diabetes or a stroke. The condition mostly affects middle-aged folks and often those with chronic diseases. Frozen shoulder occurs when there is a lack of synovial fluid—located between the upper arm bone and shoulder blade used to lubricate the shoulder joint—in the area, causing scar tissue to build up in the shoulder capsule. The scar tissue takes up more room in this area, leading to a decrease in range of motion and a feeling of stiffness.
When should I seek frozen shoulder treatment?
Frozen shoulder develops over time in three stages, each lasting about 3-4 months. Symptoms of each stage include:
• Freezing Stage: Any shoulder movement causes pain, range of motion begins to become limited.
• Frozen Stage: Pain diminishes, stiffness increases making daily use much more difficult.
• Thawing Stage: Range of motion begins to improve.
If you have frozen shoulder symptoms, it’s likely that your normal activities are being disrupted and it’s a good idea to seek treatment to begin improving your shoulder’s function before it worsens. Generally, it’s recommended that you see a physical therapist before symptoms develop into the frozen stage.
How can physical therapy help with frozen shoulder?
Regardless of the stage of your frozen shoulder condition, physical therapy can help you recover more quickly, keeping your long-term health in mind. Treatment of frozen shoulder is often handled with aggressive stretching and strengthening of the injured shoulder, depending on the severity. Your physical therapist may also include techniques such as:
• Manual therapy to maintain your range of motion and reduce any pain, utilizing various soft tissue and joint mobilization techniques.
• Custom frozen shoulder exercises to help you gradually move without pain and to mobilize the shoulder joint.
• Postural education to improve posture and the control of your shoulder blade during arm movements.
Physical therapists can provide the necessary tools to prevent and/or treat frozen shoulder, allowing you to return to your favorite activities pain-free and better than ever! To learn more about frozen shoulder or to eliminate any current discomfort, book a physical therapy assessment today.