Frozen shoulder syndrome, also known as adhesive capsulitis can be very debilitating for some. It literally results in the shoulder being felt as “frozen” resulting in significant pain and loss of motion. The condition can cause with no onset or can be a result of an injury to the shoulder.
So, what is it? Well, it’s an inflammatory condition to the shoulder where the capsule becomes inflamed and constricts the joint to be able to move. During this process muscles can also shorten around the shoulder resulting in a further loss of motion. Again, this causes significant pain and can result in a significant loss of motion as well as overall weakness to the affected arm.
What causes it? An overuse injury such as tendinitis, or those who perform repetitive overhead motions (swimmers, baseball, or work related activities), or even a sudden fall onto the shoulder. This can also be a result of what can happen after a shoulder surgery from being immobilized in a sling or from not regaining appropriate shoulder motion within a certain period after surgery. In rare cases, a frozen shoulder can be the result of Diabetes if the person does not control their blood sugar levels well.
Can physical therapy help? Of course! Typically after your initial evaluation your therapist will perform passive range of motion to your shoulder as well as joint mobilizations to help loosen up the capsule around the shoulder in order to re-gain motion. Your therapist will also instruct you in several range of motion and strengthening exercises in order to regain the ability to perform your activities of daily living with improved ability. You can expect physical therapy to last anywhere from 2-6 months depending on the severity of your symptoms.
What’s the worst case scenario? A frozen shoulder can take up to 2 years to “un-freeze” If adequate motion is not gained during physical therapy than your doctor may decide to perform a manipulation under anesthesia. This will allow your doctor to break up any scar tissue surrounding your shoulder joint in order to improve overall motion to your joint.