What is it?
Frozen shoulder is an uncomfortable shoulder condition characterised by acute inflammation of the shoulder joint capsule usually on the inferior aspect. The cause is often unknown, but can be due to trauma to the affected area, long periods of immobility and psychosomatic factors. It can be a gruelling experience lasting sometimes up to 24 months.
Signs and Symptoms
- Shoulder discomfort can range from a dull ache to pain
- Pain is aaggravated on movement of the joint
- Pain can refer to the elbow
- The patient’s sleep can be disturbed
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle weakness
Who gets it and why?
Frozen shoulder most commonly affects middle-aged to elderly people. Often, patients only present themselves for diagnosis when much of the shoulder motion is restricted. . The cause is often unknown, but can be due to trauma to the affected area, long periods of immobility and psychosomatic factors. It can be a gruelling experience lasting sometimes up to 24 months.
Recovery and Prevention
Recovery can be broken down into three stages; Freezing – the first 2-4 months, then Frozen 4-12 months and Thawing 12 – 24 months. Patient frustration is common especially the first 12 months where progress can be slow. As the thawing phase begins, shoulder restriction can reduce and pain can begin to subside.
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapy can be invaluable in the treatment and recovery from this condition. The joint responds well to gentle mobilisations, joint traction and soft tissue treatment aimed at increasing shoulder range of motion. The physical therapist prescribes a homecare plan to complement treatment.