In the United States, more than 200,000 people experience frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis every year. Frozen shoulder is the pain and stiffness around the outer shoulder and sometimes the upper arm. The shoulder consists of three major bones — upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle). There’s a strong connective tissue (shoulder capsule) that surrounds the joint. To help our shoulder move more smoothly, lubrication is located in the joint. Adhesions are formed due to the connective tissue that’s become stiff and tight.
Typically patients are able to avoid surgery by using physical therapy to regain full shoulder movement. There are three main stages of frozen shoulder that you may experience:
- Freezing. The first stage is “freezing” where you may experience more pain slowly over time. This time period can last as short as six weeks or as long as nine months.
- Frozen. The second stage is “frozen” where you experience stiffness but not as much pain. This stage can last around four to six months.
- Thawing. The final stage is “thawing.” During this stage, patients see their range of motion improve. This stage can last as short as six months or as long as two years.
While there is no clear understanding of why people get a frozen shoulder or the cause, there are several factors that might increase your chances of receiving a diagnosis. Frozen shoulders typically affect women more than men, and those who are diabetic are at an increased risk. It typically affects people between 40 to 60 years old. Also, if your shoulder is immobile due to any injury, you might be at an increased risk. You may have an increased chance if you have medical problems like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiac disease.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder
Many of our patients will see a full recovery from nonsurgical treatments like any of the options below.
- Anti-inflammatory Medicine. You may need to try an anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin and ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Heat. Use heat to warm the shoulder before use for a daily activity or physical therapy. Administer heat to your shoulder in twenty-minute intervals several times a day.
- Physical Therapy. You may be able to restore your range of motion by using several physical therapy exercises. There are several specific exercises that you can use like External Rotation, Forward Flexion, and Crossover Arm Stretch.
- Hydrodilatation. If other methods haven’t worked, hydrodilatation may be recommended. A large amount of fluid will be injected into your shoulder joint in order to stretch the shoulder joint capsule. This option is performed by a radiologist who uses imaging to place the fluid.
- Steroid Injection. A stronger anti-inflammatory injection reduces inflammation and pain, but the effects are only temporary.