Do you really have a Frozen Shoulder?

Very frequently patients consult us thinking (or having previously being told ) that they have a “Frozen Shoulder” only for us to find out that their shoulder problem is a result of something else entirely!

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is in fact a relatively uncommon condition effecting about only 3% of the general population. However this incidence rises to about 20% in the diabetic population, and other predilections include clinical depression, hyperthyroidism, heart or lung disease and previous shoulder trauma.  It can often be confused with other shoulder complaints such as rotator cuff problems, sub acromial bursitis or scapula stabilisation deficiencies as the presentation of all of these can be very similar.

What is Adhesive Capsulitis?

It is a very painful and debilitating condition which results in a long term loss of movement within the shoulder girdle. Typically a frozen shoulder will last between 8 months to 3 years and there are 3 main stages which occur, freezing, frozen and thawing. Each stage has certain characteristics which are described below. A frozen shoulder will not affect the same shoulder twice however the other shoulder may develop symptoms anywhere between 6 months to 7 years later.

What is Adhesive Capsulitis?

It is a very painful and debilitating condition which results in a long term loss of movement within the shoulder girdle. Typically a frozen shoulder will last between 8 months to 3 years and there are 3 main stages which occur, freezing, frozen and thawing. Each stage has certain characteristics which are described below. A frozen shoulder will not affect the same shoulder twice however the other shoulder may develop symptoms anywhere between 6 months to 7 years later.

What causes Adhesive Capsulitis?

The cause is unknown, but the most common theory is that adhesions develop within the shoulder joint and capsule due to an inflammatory process.

Symptoms

The typical patient is a sedentary female between the ages of 40 and 65 years (median age 50-55). It predominantly affects the non-dominant arm although rarely it can present on both sides at the same time.

Freezing Stage

  • This is the first stage and can last anywhere between 2 and 9 months
  • Vague dull shoulder pain gradually develops until it becomes  constant
  • It often cannot be attributed to one specific event
  • Very painful at night especially when lying on the affected side
  • Start to notice loss of motion especially when turning your arm outwards e.g. putting a coat on
  • Not everyone notices this phase and may jump straight to the frozen stage
  • The symptoms of this stage overlap with many other shoulder conditions so this can lead to confusion and misdiagnosis.

Frozen

  • Progressive loss of motion lasting from 4 to 12 months
  • Pain gradually decreases as stiffness increases
  • Loss of movement is especially noted on raising the arm to the side and on turning it out
  • Strength remains normal within the available range of movement

Thawing

  • Very gradual restoration of movement, generally lasts 5-26 months (usually the longer the freezing phase is the longer this stage will take)
  • Pain levels reduce remarkably
  • Full movement may not return

 

Due to the fact that this condition can present itself like many others a full history and examination is essential to determine if you do indeed have a frozen shoulder or if it another condition entirely. A true frozen shoulder will gradually get better by itself although treatment may aid pain relief due to secondary compensations which occur in the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints around the shoulder girdle. Other conditions however often respond favourably to conservative management so be sure to get your shoulder checked by a manual therapist whether it be a chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath as you may be suffering with pain and loss of motion needlessly.

Find out whether you have a Frozen Shoulder or another shoulder issue by calling us on 0131 4473794 to arrange a free consultation.

 

3 thoughts on “Do you really have a Frozen Shoulder?

  1. While unnecessary, treating a frozen shoulder is a great way to relieve unnecessary pain and suffering. You’re correct though, in time it will sort itself out.

  2. The best way to find out if you actually have a frozen shoulder is to go see a chiropractic, or at least someone with the knowledge to help you out!! Maybe a friend?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *