Adhesive capsulitis, often known as frozen shoulder, is an inflammation of the shoulder capsule that can cause pain and often full immobility in the shoulder. While the exact cause isn’t clear, there are a number of conditions and situations that can contribute to the development of the limitation, which usually resolves after 12 to 18 months. Though there is no way to easily reverse frozen shoulder, help from a Snellville orthopedics clinic can allow management of symptoms and promote faster, more complete recovery in those suffering from the condition.
Signs and Onset of Frozen Shoulder
As frozen shoulder is a progressive condition, it is usually divided into three stages:
- The “Freezing” phase, in which you experience increasingly severe shoulder pain over the course of weeks or months. You will likely still have range of motion at this time, but the pain can be debilitating and may occur most often at night.
- The “Frozen” phase will come with decreased pain, but an increase in stiffness that may severely impact your range of motion, even fully immobilizing the shoulder in some cases. This problem will persist through the day and the night both, though pain may be more present at night.
- In the “Thawing” phase, pain continues to lessen and some range of motion is restored, slowing improving over months or years. Eventually, the shoulder returns to previous levels of mobility.
While it can occur out of nowhere, frozen shoulder is often preceded by a period of forced immobility of the arm. Recovery from surgery like a mastectomy can cause such little movement that the condition begins, or other injuries may be at fault. A build-up of scar tissue can contribute to frozen shoulders, so repetitive injuries increase the risk factor.
What to Do With a Frozen Shoulder
If you suspect you may have a frozen shoulder, a Snellville orthopedics clinic should be your first stop. The doctors can perform a physical exam to assess your range of motion by asking you to perform various movements. You may also be sent for diagnostic scans like an x-ray or MRI to rule out other underlying issues or injuries.
Frozen shoulders do normally resolve over time, even without treatment. However, treatment can speed up this process and ensure the recovery is complete and safe.
Managing Symptoms at Home
Most treatment for a frozen shoulder focuses on relieving pain and restoring the normal range of motion to the shoulder. A doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication with anti-inflammatory properties like aspirin or ibuprofen, though these should be used sparingly and under the guidance of a physician. You can also use an ice pack on your shoulder throughout the day, for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time, to help with pain and swelling.
While your range of motion is limited, you should not stop trying to use your shoulder at home. As much as possible, gentle use is recommended to help retain strength. This will also help you notice when mobility begins to return.
Treatments for Frozen Shoulder
In addition to managing symptoms at home, the primary treatment for frozen shoulder is physical therapy. Your routine will likely focus first on exercises that help to stretch the joint capsule before moving onto strengthening exercises. While these will always be done under professional guidance, you will likely be able to practice exercises at home once you learn your limits.
During the course of treatment, you should avoid activities that aggravate your pain and require reaching or lifting overhead. With adherence to your treatment plan, you will likely be able to resume your usual level of activity after time.
When pain is not well managed, a doctor may recommend steroid injections into your shoulder that treat discomfort as well as inflammation. This provides relief along with reducing inflammation and facilitating more stretching. Sterile water can also be injected into the joint capsule to help stretch the tissue.
Only in severe cases will surgery be recommended to remove scar tissue and adhesions inside the shoulder. However, you can also be put under general anesthetic for a procedure called a shoulder manipulation where the doctor moves your joints in different directions to loosen the tissue.
Visiting a Snellville Orthopedics Clinic
Whether you suspect you are in the early stages of a frozen shoulder or have been suffering for some time, the staff at AICA Snellville is here to help. Our orthopedists, chiropractors, and physical therapists work closely together to develop a treatment plan that gets you back to health quickly and safely. Schedule your first consultation today!