Thaw Your Frozen Shoulder!

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is an inflammatory condition in the shoulder joint where pain and gross loss of range of movement occur. It is caused by inflammation of the synovial lining and capsule, leading to dense adhesion formation within the joint. It typically evolves through three phases: a freezing phase, a frozen phase, and a thawing phase.

The research is not yet clear as to what exactly causes adhesive capsulitis. However, there is a consensus that the earlier intervention, the better. Treatment generally includes breaking down of the fibrous (sticky) matter that adheres to the joint itself with massage therapy, stretches and exercises.

Any previous trauma, age, gender, cultural background & poor posture can contribute to the onset of symptoms. All of these need to be taken into account, along with any specific mechanism of injury to make an accurate diagnosis. It may be difficult in most cases, as the onset in insidious, meaning without warning and without any provocation.

Progression of the disorder may be broken up into 3 phases, which can be characterized by:

  • Pain and loss of ROM, which can last up to 12 months,
  • Continued pain and an increase in loss of range of movement which can again last up to 12 months
  • Recovery of range of motion which can again be over a period of 12-18 months.

The general pattern of loss of range of movement is a decrease external rotation (turning the shoulder out) and abduction (lifting the arm up beside the body).

The main group of muscles that are affected and tighten around the shoulder capsule are the rotator cuff muscles and other associated neck and torso muscles that work to compensate for the lack of shoulder movement.

Our therapists at Health Place perform a thorough assessment to ensure that the correct treatment plan is provided to the patient and the use of a multi-modality approach may be critical in a frozen shoulder presentation.

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