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Frozen shoulder

Shoulder pain is a common complaint in Clinic and one diagnosis is frozen shoulder. A patient with a frozen shoulder will have very limited movement when trying to raise their arm above their head, out to the side and reaching behind their back. Sleeping may also be difficult, especially turning over and lying on the affected side.

What is frozen shoulder?

It is thought that 2-5% of people will suffer from a frozen shoulder. It is slightly more common in women and often affects those between 40 and 60 years old. There are some health conditions that can make you slightly more susceptible to a frozen shoulder such as diabetes and thyroid problems.

In frozen shoulders the tissues (capsule) that surround the shoulder joint contract and shorten, creating stiffness in the ball and socket joint that makes up the shoulder. The reason for this happening is not well understood. In some patients this happens following a trauma to the shoulder such as a fall or surgery and in some cases there is no known cause for a frozen shoulder developing.

A typical scenario we see in Clinic is a patient seeking treatment for a ‘frozen shoulder’, finding they leave with a different diagnosis. Shoulder pain can also be caused by arthritis, dislocations and tears to the muscles and tendons that may require different treatment and self care. A thorough history of a patient’s symptoms and a physical examination is required to make the correct diagnosis. X-rays and scans are often also required.

Stages of frozen shoulder

Unfortunately a true frozen shoulder can take several months to resolve and can sometimes last up to 3 years. There are 3 distinct stages to a frozen shoulder

  • The freezing stage. This is the most painful of all the stages. Movement becomes increasingly limited.
  • Frozen stage. In this stage movement is limited and pain is less severe
  • Thawing stage. This is where the movement in the shoulder slowly improves back to normal.

There are things that can be done at each of these stages to manage pain levels and improve outcomes.

Treating a frozen shoulder

During the freezing stage of a frozen shoulder the pain can be at its worst. For a lot of patients this means some sort of pain management may be required – your GP can help you with the best pain medication for you. There is also some evidence that early corticosteroid injections can help both with pain and movement in the shoulder.

Maintaining as much movement in the shoulder throughout is important. This can be done with exercises such as wall or table slides, where you slide your arm gently overhead with the aid of the table or wall, and pendulum exercises where you allow your arm to hang down by your side making small circular and back to front movements. These exercises can be progressed to add some resistance once pain allows in order to ensure that you don’t lose too much strength in the shoulder.

Alongside exercises tailored to your needs, our Osteopaths at The Odiham Clinic can also provide hands on treatment which can greatly improve the process of recovering from a frozen shoulder (as well as a host of other shoulder and non shoulder injuries).

So if you think you may have a shoulder injury that sounds similar to this please call us at the Clinic and we will help you back to full fitness!