Frozen Shoulder Symptoms and Treatment
Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder makes the shoulder joint difficult to move while causing pain, eventually resulting in the shoulder becoming very difficult to move.
Frozen shoulder is most common in middle-aged people from ages 40 to 60, and is more common in women than men. Those who are diabetic are also more likely to develop frozen shoulder.
When adhesive capsulitis occurs, the area of the shoulder called the capsule becomes thicker than usual, causing it to feel stiff and tight. That thickening can also push some of the lubricating synovial fluid from the joint, worsening the stiffness.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
You can expect dull, aching pain from a frozen shoulder, and that pain is typically more severe in the early stages of the disease and when you try to move your arm. Pain is typically isolated to the outer shoulder and the upper arm area.
Treatment of Frozen Shoulder
Though adhesive capsulitis typically resolves itself with time, it can take years to fully heal on its own. Treatment should be focused on pain management and restoration of motion and strength in the shoulder joint.
Most cases of frozen shoulder greatly improve with the aid of simple pain management and restorative techniques, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) like aspirin or ibuprofen
- Cortisone anti-inflammatory steroid injections
- Hydrodilatation – the process of injecting sterile fluid into the shoulder joint in order to expand the shoulder capsule
- Physical therapy exercises to assist in restoring full range of motion (ROM)
In some cases, symptoms may not be relieved by nonsurgical methods, at which point your physician may recommend surgery. Surgical treatments include:
- Manipulation under anesthesia – You will be put under general anesthesia during this procedure, in which your physician will forcefully move your shoulder, stretching the scar tissue that has formed. This aids in loosening the shoulder joint and restoring range of motion
- Shoulder arthroscopy – Using three small incisions around your shoulder joint, your surgeon will cut through the portions of the shoulder capsule that are too tight. A combination of manipulation and arthroscopic means typically yield good outcomes.
ALBERT VOLK, MD
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. Dr. Volk specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.