Frozen shoulder is one of the most common conditions associated with the shoulder. It is related to stiffness and pain in the shoulder, leading to reduced shoulder movements and hence, gets its name 'frozen' shoulder. However, often this condition is mistaken with arthritis. Arthritis is a condition in which multiple body joints are affected; whereas in case of frozen shoulder, only the shoulder joint experiences the troubles. The medical name of this condition is Adhesive Capsulitis. Broadly, frozen shoulder is identified by some of the first signs like stiffness in the shoulder, swelling of the shoulder and a restricted mobility. Usually, frozen shoulder condition is known to affect only one shoulder. However, in some cases, both the shoulders may be affected.
First Signs of Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder is commonly identified by the usual signs or symptoms such as stiffness in the shoulder and limited or restricted movement of the shoulder. However based on the stages they vary greatly. The first stage of frozen shoulder, which is also referred to as the 'freezing' stage or the painful stage, typically lasts for about 2 months to 9 months. The usual signs and symptoms at this stage include –
- A strong pain in the shoulder at night
- Lying on the affected shoulder would be quite difficult and uncomfortable
- While trying rapid movements of the arm or the shoulder, especially if the movement is unguarded, there would be a sharp increase in pain.
- A loss of passive glenohumeral joint movement can be examined globally in all frozen shoulder sufferers in the first stage.
- Any movement of the shoulder aggravating the pain is a sign of frozen shoulder
- Examination will find that at the end range of motion, pain is felt.
- Any kind of active and passive motion of the shoulder will be lost at this stage.
Research studies and clinical findings have proven that people, who are above the age of 35, are more likely to develop these signs and symptoms of frozen shoulder. However, the general onset can be encountered in people, who are below the age of 60. Women and patients suffering from diabetes should be careful about their shoulder condition, in case these signs of frozen shoulder are encountered.
Other Common Signs and Difficulties in the First or 'Freezing' Stage
In the early stage of frozen shoulder, people will experience some other symptoms as well. These are common issues that indicate the first stage of frozen shoulder and its gradual onset. These are –
- Inability to throw a ball
- Inability to reach for something above the shoulder height
- Inability to reach the back or behind the body to tuck in a shirt or to hook up the bra
- Inability to comb the hair
- Inability to reach the seat belt on the affected side.
If such difficulties are experienced, along with the first or early signs of frozen shoulder, there is a high possibility that the condition is nothing but frozen shoulder. In case other signs and symptoms are encountered upon clinical diagnosis by the doctor, X-ray and MRI scans may be run to find out other causes.
Treatment Frozen Shoulder
Usually frozen shoulder symptoms go without any treatment, within 2 to 3 years. If the symptoms are identified in an early stage, they can be prevented from worsening. Thus, the pain can be reduced to a great extent. Over the counter painkillers are quite common in dealing with the pain. Along with that, some other pain relieving techniques are used. These include –
- Shoulder mobilisation techniques
- Dry needling
- Muscle releasing exercises
- Kinesiology taping.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that overzealous practicing of these pain relieving techniques may lead to severe side effects and increase the pain. Hence, it must be done in moderation and as per recommended by the treating doctor.