Frozen shoulder is a painful condition involving stiffness of the glenohumeral joint.
Also known as ‘adhesive capsulitis’ or ‘shoulder contracture’, it is a condition of pain and stiffness in the shoulder, which inhibits movement and can interfere with daily activities. Frozen shoulder develops when the soft tissue surrounding the shoulder joint (the capsule) becomes inflamed and starts to thicken. This condition can take months to develop, and likewise, can take months or years to resolve itself. There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing a frozen shoulder, such as if you:
- Are between 40 and 60 years
- Are female
- Have had a previous shoulder injury or surgery
- Are diabetic
- Have other health conditions, such as thyroid disorders, heart disease Dupuytren’s contracture.
Signs & Symptoms
- Gradual pain then persistent stiffness in the affected shoulder
- Muscle atrophy (breakdown)
- Decreased range of movement
- Pain with all movement , especially abduction and external rotation.
- Pain can range from mild to severe.
Frozen shoulder can spontaneously resolve without treatment, but may take several months or years, with compromised full range of movement as a result.
Treatment varies depending on severity of pain and stiffness experienced, and is based around managing pain and maintaining mobility in the shoulder joint. This may include:
- Modification of activities that aggravate symptoms further (e.g. lifting / reaching overhead).
- Oral pain relief is often recommended by GPs, such as paracetamol (with or without codeine), or a non steroidal anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen.
- Individuals may be referred for physiotherapy to optimise shoulder joint function and stabilise surrounding muscles through targeted exercises.
- Corticosterioid injections may be offered if other pain relief options, and physiotherapy, have not shown improvement in symptoms.