It started out as a nagging stiffness. Now, you’ve traveled through pain and your shoulder is completely locked up. It’s likely you have frozen shoulder, a condition that affects up to 5% of people at some point in their lives — with women outpacing men by four to one.
While you may have ignored the problem as it develops, now’s the time to seek some help to regain use of your shoulder. The team of orthopedic specialists here at Western Orthopaedics includes shoulder experts who understand how to best address frozen shoulder.
Here’s a look at why you should enlist our help to navigate your way back from a frozen shoulder.
Frozen shoulder — a potentially long road
Also called adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is an inflammatory disorder that can develop on the heels of an injury or surgery to your shoulder, or for more obscure reasons that we likely won’t figure out.
Your shoulders are inherently unstable joints, but this instability is what allows your arms such a wide range of motion. You can reach up high, scratch your back, windmill your arms — all because of a shallow ball and socket.
To keep your shoulder functioning well, the joint is inside a capsule that contains synovial fluid, which encourages movement. With frozen shoulder, inflammation in the capsule creates tough adhesions that thicken the capsule, making moving your shoulder very difficult.
The process typically occurs over six weeks to nine months, and you can experience some pain and discomfort during this freezing stage. Your shoulder can then remain frozen for 4-6 months, at which point it starts to eventually thaw, which can take a year or two.
From start to finish, frozen shoulder is a long haul, which is why it’s a good idea to seek help.
Thawing your shoulder correctly and quickly
If we diagnose your issue as frozen shoulder, there are a few ways we can help.
The fix for frozen shoulder is rarely surgical, and our role is to help the joint thaw as quickly as possible using conservative measures. First, we want to control the inflammation, which we can do with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and/or corticosteroid injections.
With the inflammation under control, our next goal is to loosen the thickened tissues, which we accomplish through targeted physical therapy (PT). During your PT, you’ll work on stretching the capsule in your shoulder to break up scar tissue and encourage flexibility and range of motion.
The PT you do with us here, and on your own at home, is critical to healing correctly and quickly.
If you’re not seeing any improvement in your shoulder, we can try hydrodilatation, a technique in which we enlarge the capsule by injecting fluid into your shoulder. The sterile fluid stretches out the tissues in your shoulder to break apart tough adhesions that may be resisting your PT.
Even with our help, patience is going to be key to get to the other side of a frozen shoulder. Still, seeking help is best, as you won’t prolong the process or spin your wheels in the wrong direction.
For expert care of your frozen shoulder, please contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists.