In today’s fast paced society, people are neglecting their own health at the expense of their work. Sitting long hours in front of a screen with forward neck posture and elevated shoulders may lead to shoulder pain and stiffness. More often than not, one will not take such small injuries seriously. When it is left unnoticed and untreated, it results in a more severe condition such as a frozen shoulder.
Frozen shoulder is also referred as adhesive capsulitis. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, in which the round part of one bone fits into the concavity of another. The big proximal humerus (round head of the upper arm bone) fits into small socket of the scapula (shoulder blade). The shoulder capsule is fully stretched when you raise your arm above your head, and hangs down as a small pouch when your arm is lowered. This means there is less space for your upper arm bone in the joint, which limits movements.Frozen shoulder is thought to cause the formation of scar tissue in the shoulder, which makes the shoulder joint’s capsule swollen, thicken and tighten, leaving less room for movement. Therefore, movement may be stiff and even painful.
While former injuries may heighten the possibilities of a frozen shoulder, other risk factors such as age, gender and underlying medical conditions do play a part as well. Women aged 50-60 years old are more prone to frozen shoulder, while underlying medical conditions such as diabetes also increases the risk of a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder also appears to be more common among people who have Parkinson disease, thyroid problems, lung disease, been immobilized for prolonged periods and also those who had previously suffered a stroke.
How can you treat Frozen Shoulder?
In order to effectively treat Frozen Shoulder, you should consider seeking physiotherapy treatment, as they are tailored to your needs depending on the stage you are in. The aim of treatment for frozen shoulder is to alleviate pain and preserve mobility and flexibility in the shoulder.
The first stage of a frozen shoulder is widely known as the painful or freezing stage. Due to inflammation of shoulder cap (Capsulitis) and fibrotic adhesions, one may experience shoulder pain and stiffness.
Pain relieving techniques which can help during this painful inflammation phase include:
- Gentle shoulder mobilization.
- Muscle releases.
- Kinesiology taping for pain-relief.
It’s also important not to aggravate a frozen shoulder during this phase.
The second stage is the frozen stage, where pain subsides but the stiffness of the shoulder remains. When the joint capsule is inflamed and scar tissue forms, the tissues inside the joint shrink and harden. This results in stiff shoulder movements.
For a prompt return to function, the treatment consists of:
- Shoulder joint mobilization and stretches.
- Muscle release techniques.
- Exercises to regain range of movement and strength.
You shouldn’t do any exercises that are too aggressive. Overenthusiastic treatment can cause pain, since it aggravates your inflammation (capsular synovitis).
The last stage is the thawing stage, where there is gradual return of mobility, along with some weakness due to disuse of the shoulder muscles.
- Shoulder mobilization and stretches – your best chance of a fast return to full shoulder movement.
- Strengthening exercises – as your range of motion increases, your physiotherapist will show you how to control and maintain your newly found range of movement.
Prevent or Avoid frozen shoulder occurrence
Here are some simple steps that you can incorporate into your daily life to dramatically reduce your chances of developing frozen shoulder as you age:
- Stretch Your Shoulders and Spine
- Strengthen the tendons and ligaments around the shoulder joint
- Adapt correct alignment and posture
- Balance in core and peripheral muscle strength
- Seek early intervention for shoulder strain.
Whenever unsure, consult your therapist. Do not ignore your shoulder pain, seek early treatment before excessive scar tissue develops. If you experience stiffness in the shoulder joint it is recommended that you seek medical attention sooner rather than later in order to prevent permanent stiffness.