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Frozen Shoulder

By definition, frozen shoulder is an idiopathic (cause unknown) condition of the shoulder joint which is characterised with extensive pain and a contracture of the joint capsule itself and is often worse at night.

The medical industry is still searching for the exact cause and studies are constantly being undertaken to improve management of this condition. We do know that it involves a hyperplastic fibroplasia (more cells that normal) and excessive collagen secretion which leads to contractures of the joint capsule.

The frozen shoulder has three stages Painful – Pain occurs in movement of the shoulder and movement becomes restricted. This stage lasts from 2 to 9 months.

Frozen – Shoulder pain typically decreases, but the range of movement of the shoulder reduces dramatically. This stage lasts from 4 to 12 months.

Thawing – The shoulder's ability to move begins to improve. This stage lasts from 5 to 24 months.

Signs and Symptoms Frozen shoulder is seen most commonly in the age bracket of 40-59 and it is estimated that 70% of patients with adhesive shoulder capsulitis are women. Less than 2% of the population will experience some level of frozen shoulder in their lifetime, however that figure increases to 11% in diabetics and those with hyperthyroidism. You are more likely to suffer if you have had shoulder trauma and/or extended periods of immobility of the shoulder. Additionally, men do not respond to treatments as well as women.

Treatment of frozen shoulder Deep tissue massage, range of motion exercises, and stretching are the fundamental part of treatment. The shoulder joint is encouraged to move as much as possible and doing as many of our usual daily activities (that the shoulder will allow) is advised, and will help keep strength in the shoulder joint.

NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory medication) may be used to help control pain levels as well as heat or ice. Corticosteroid injections are often used, but with limited efficiency. One study showed that in 65% of cases the injection was ineffective because it missed the required injection site.

Time frame Unfortunately recovery is slow and frustrating, but it WILL get better! The usual time frame is between 6 and 24 months. Most people will enjoy full recovery within 2 years.

It's unusual for frozen shoulder to recur in the same shoulder. But some people can develop it in the opposite shoulder, usually within five years.

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