Frozen Shoulder: Causes and Treatment
Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes restriction of motion and pain in the shoulder joint. When a patient develops a frozen shoulder the capsule surrounding the joint contracts and bands of scar tissue called adhesions are formed within the joint. The contraction of the capsule and the formation of the adhesions cause the shoulder to become stiff and movement to become painful. There is great variation in the severity and length of symptoms. Untreated, on average the symptoms last 2-3 years in total before going. In some cases it is much less than this. In a minority of cases, symptoms last for several years. Weakness in your shoulder, upper arm and back muscles will occur over time from lack of use; this can create an imbalance in your muscle strength (as the stronger muscles have to compensate for the weaker ones) and cause muscular strains and alignment issues.
Who Does Frozen Shoulder Syndrome Affect?
Frozen Shoulder affects about 1 in 50 adults at some stage in their life, and usually affects women more than men and often occurs between the ages of 40 -60 years. Patients will experience severe loss of motion in the shoulder with pain that can travel down the arm and into the wrist. Usually the pain is dull and achy but can become sharp and severe with sudden movements. Lying on the affected side and lifting the arm above the head can cause the pain to become worse, making sleep and daily activities difficult. Stiffness will progressively get worse and can last for many months unless treatment occurs. Either shoulder can be affected but most commonly it is the non-dominant shoulder. That is, the left shoulder in a right-handed person. In about 1 in 5 cases the condition also develops in the other shoulder at some stage.
There are several potential causative factors for Frozen Shoulder Syndrome:
- Failure to properly treat the shoulder after trauma or surgery,
- Long periods of immobilization, or,
- Although frozen shoulder is not a form of arthritis it can be caused by arthritis in the neck and/or shoulder,
- Often times there is no known injury or cause and in these cases poor postural alignment of the shoulder girdle and head and neck can increase pressures on the shoulder leading to pain, inflammation and possible frozen shoulder over time.
- People with diabetes and thyroid conditions are at risk for development of this condition.