Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by pain, inflammation, and stiffness. The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up the shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder. This causes limited range of motion.
Frozen shoulder develops in three stages:
Freezing Stage: Range of motion becomes limited and any movement hurts your shoulder. The pain may be worse at night. This stage can last 6 weeks to 9 months.
Frozen Stage: Pain starts to diminish, but your shoulder becomes stiffer. This stage can last 4 to 9 months.
Thawing Stage: Range of motion in the shoulder starts improving. This stage can last 5 to 26 months.
Doctors are not sure of the cause of frozen shoulder, but there is an increase rate in people who have been immobilized for a period of time or had a previous injury of the shoulder. Many factors that can cause immobility of the shoulder include: rotator cuff injury, broken arm, stroke, recovery from surgery, and systemic diseases. Risk factors may also people who have diabetes, hypo and hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
During the freezing stage, ice, anti-inflammatories, cold laser, and pain relievers can be helpful. The goal in this stage is to decrease the pain. During the frozen stage, the main focus is to improve mobility. Chiropractic adjustments can help improve mobility, physical therapy and massage can help loosen up the joint capsule. Heat is helpful before stretching to loosen the shoulder, and icing is important afterwards to minimize the inflammation.
Frozen shoulder can be a long/frustrating healing process, but most of the time the shoulder does heal. It can take several years to fully heal. Conservative treatment with Chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and massage can be very helpful in improving mobility of the shoulder. In the event that conservative treatment is not helpful, surgery may be an option to break up the adhesions.