Compared to other joints in our body, the shoulder offers the most extensive range of movement possible. Think about it: which other joint can easily perform a full 360-degree turn? Not only are shoulders amazing multi-taskers, they bear the brunt of a good amount of our daily activities. So in the event that a shoulder freezes up, what do you do? Here is what you need to know about a very real medical condition – frozen shoulder – and what you can do about it.
What is Frozen Shoulder?
Shoulders are comprised of three bones – the clavicle, scapula, and humerus – plus associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. Frozen shoulder – the medical term is adhesive capsulitis – occurs when the shoulder’s strong connective tissue found within the shoulder capsule thickens, forming bands of tissue that prevents the joint from moving. When the shoulder capsule thickens, there is less room for movement, leading to increased pain and stiffness.
Causes and Risk Factors
While the cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, certain factors, including diabetes, heart disease, a thyroid imbalance and Parkinson’s disease, have been identified as raising one’s risk of developing the condition. People over 40 years old, particularly women, are more prone to develop a frozen shoulder. Another possible cause for the condition is immobilization, resulting from a shoulder that must stay sedentary due to surgery, a fracture or other injuries.
Signs and Symptoms
Pain and stiffness around the shoulder is the most common sign of frozen shoulder. Although the condition develops gradually and is often mistaken for arthritis, the onset of severe pain can be sudden. The discomfort may come from just one of your shoulders, or around the portion where the shoulder muscle wraps around the upper arm. Most often, frozen shoulder is categorized into three stages; during the first stage, you can expect a sense of pain around your shoulder every time you move it. When not addressed, the condition will worsen over time and you will start to notice your range of motion getting smaller. As time progresses, the shoulder will freeze and even the slightest movement can cause pain and discomfort.
The kind of treatments you can expect for frozen shoulder include both nonsurgical and surgical options and depends on how severe your symptoms and pain are. Nonsurgical options include over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). These and similar prescription medications help relieve pain and reduce swelling and inflammation caused by injury or disease, such as arthritis.
Physical therapy is another option that can be employed in the early stages of frozen shoulder to prevent the condition from worsening. Your physical therapist will show you shoulder-specific stretches and exercises while also applying manual techniques to include soft-tissue massage and range-of-motion routines. If surgery is necessitated, your specialist may recommend surgical options to total shoulder replacement surgery.
Orthopedic Treatment in Maryland
When it comes to caring for the complex nature of hand and upper extremity problems, people from across the eastern seaboard and beyond rely on Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder, where our board-certified orthopedic surgeons have years of success caring for and performing complex orthopedic surgeries particular to this unique part of the body. If you are suffering from frozen shoulder – or any other concern to include carpal tunnel syndrome, painful joints, or even workman’s compensation or sports injuries – consider the experts at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. Call us today at (410) 296-6232 for a consultation, or complete our simple online appointment request form.