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What is Frozen Shoulder and how can it Be Treated?

Frozen shoulder is also referred to as adhesive capsulitis and is quite a common cause of shoulder pain. While many people tend to confuse this condition with a rotator cuff injury or miss it altogether, its patterns and symptoms are distinctly different from the latter. A person that has a frozen shoulder will suffer from pain, stiffness, and loss of shoulder function.

Frozen shoulder – the causes

The unfortunate part is that not much is known about frozen shoulder and the cause of it is one of the unknown factors. While theories abound, the medical community is in an unending debate about what causes frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder facts

A frozen shoulder causes shrinkage of the shoulder joint, which results in a reduced range of movement in the shoulder; aside from this, the person also experiences pain. The shoulder capsules are the deepest layers of soft tissue around the shoulder joint and they play a major role in ensuring that your humerus’ stay in your shoulder sockets.

The symptoms

There are three different stages of frozen shoulder and each of them has different symptoms:

Stage 1 – Freezing

This is characterised by severe pain around the shoulder initially, which eventually leads to a progressive reduction in the range of movement. This is referred to as the “RED” phase because of the colour of the capsule if the person undergoes arthroscopic surgery.

Stage 2 – Frozen

There is minimal pain and the person does not either regain or lose any more range of movement. This is referred to as the “PINK” phase due to the colour of the capsule in case the person undergoes arthroscopic surgery.

Stage 3 – Thawing

The pesron will be able to regain his range of motion, but will experience a certain amount of weakness because the joint has been disused. This is referred to as the “WHITE” phase because that’s the colour of the capsule if the person undergoes arthroscopic surgery.

If left untreated, each of these stages can last for an average of six to eight months.

How a frozen shoulder diagnosis is done

Your physiotherapist will conduct a thorough shoulder examination would have to be done to diagnose a frozen shoulder. The professional will ask you about which physical activities cause pain and which you are unable to do. Some of the common issues that people with frozen shoulder face include the inability to:

  • Reach above shoulder height
  • Throw a ball
  • Quickly reach for things
  • Sleep on their side
  • Reach behind their back
  • Reach out behind or to their side

In some cases, the physiotherapist may refer you for an MRI or X-rays to rule out any other possible causes. An X-ray is unable to diagnose a frozen shoulder but an MRA or MRI can provide a more accurate diagnosis.

Frozen shoulder treatment

The physiotherapy treatment that will be recommended for you will depend on the stage of the condition and the physiotherapist will design a specific plan that will work for you and it could include:

  • Muscle releases
  • Gentle shoulder mobilisation
  • Acupuncture
  • Kinesiology taping
  • Dry needling
  • Muscle release techniques
  • Joint mobilisation and stretches
  • Exercises to regain strength and range

Can frozen shoulder be prevented?

As mentioned at the outset, since there isn’t much clarity about what causes a frozen shoulder, you can prevent the condition if it is caused by disuse post a shoulder injury or post-surgery.

If you have sufffered an arm or shoulder injury, it is advisable to seek the advice of a professional physiotherapist. We at Insync Physiotherapy have skilled and experienced physiotherapists on board and can provide excellent treatments and care. For any more information on the different types of services we provide, feel free to contact us on (02) 7226 3432. You can also send us your queries via this online form.

Thanks for reading,
Insync Physiotherapy Team
(02) 7226 3432