What Is Frozen Shoulder?
Whether the cause of a minor injury or a long-term condition, frozen shoulder affects patients in what are known as the “freezing,” “frozen,” and “thawing” stages. As the lining around the shoulder joint gradually thickens due to inflammation, it tightens the surrounding scar tissue causing prolonged loss or reduction of mobility. While this common condition often dissipates — or thaws — without aid, there are a range of treatment options designed to lessen the extent of daily complications.
The result of gradual inflammation, frozen shoulder has a number of risk factors for orthopaedists to consider during diagnosis, including:
- Age – Patients between the ages of 40 and 60 are at peak risk for frozen shoulder.
- Gender – Women are more likely to experience frozen shoulder than any other gender.
- Injury – Patients are at higher risk of frozen shoulder after sustaining injuries that minimized mobility for an extended period of time, such as a broken arm.
- Illness – Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, may put patients at greater risk of frozen shoulder.
Following a walkthrough of the patient’s medical history, an orthopaedic specialist will check for frozen shoulder through a physical examination. Measuring mobility and pain, a specialist may examine the patient’s:
- active range of motion by requesting them to perform certain shoulder movements
- passive range of motion by manipulating their relaxed shoulder
To dismiss underlying conditions, patients may also be advised to consider an imaging exam, including an X-ray or MRI.
Pain management and restored mobility are the principle goals of frozen shoulder treatment. Treatment plans typically begin with conservative recommendations including over-the-counter pain medication and either guided or self-directed physical therapy. Pain-relieving medication reduces inflammation while physical therapy helps to increase the range of motion over time. Persisting symptoms, however, are sometimes treated with steroid injections within the early stages of treatment.
If the initial treatment options don’t relieve a patient’s symptoms within six to 12 months, shoulder specialists may suggest an interventional treatment option, such as arthroscopic capsular release. This minimally invasive operation allows specialists to arthroscopically examine, divide, and release the area of the shoulder causing tension and stiffness.
No matter which phase of frozen shoulder you’re experiencing, you can count on the team at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine to provide the highest level of care. If found in the earliest stages, our shoulder specialists can even attempt to preserve your range of motion with preemptive physical therapy and conservative pain management. Schedule your appointment today by completing our online request form or calling 904-825-0540.
ALBERT VOLK, MD
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. Dr. Volk specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.