Physio: Frozen shoulder causes loss of range of motion

The shoulder joint is a common source of pain for many people.

The shoulder joint is a complex joint with many moving parts. It is a common source of pain for many patients seeking help from their physician or physiotherapist. There are many causes of shoulder pain. These may include pain from the shoulder joint itself, the neck, or the upper back.

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is an umbrella term used by many health care practitioners to describe a syndrome for shoulder pain with loss of range of motion. The most common age group is 45-60 and women tend to be more affected then men. There is usually a gradual onset with this condition but it can be from a trauma such as a fracture, post surgery, or from immobilization. In many cases it will affect one shoulder and then the other shoulder later on. Reoccurrence of the same shoulder is rare.

The pain is usually described as dull and achy that increases with movement. Patients often note that they are not able to sleep on the affected arm.  They may also report there is some relief with heat, warm showers, rest, and aspirin.

The condition goes through three defined stages and can last for a few months to several years. In Stage One, the pain predominates. Pain in or around the shoulder increases at the extremes of shoulder movement. Pain can be mainly at night and during rest. As stage one progresses the patient can no longer comfortably lie on the affected shoulder during sleep. Stiffness is usually not a problem in this stage. At Stage Two, pain decreases but the shoulder becomes stiffer. The patient can no longer perform many routine activities because the arm cannot move in those directions anymore. At Stage Three there is little pain but the stiffness is now pronounced and the patient may experience some muscle wasting.

Research on treatment of frozen shoulder is mixed. In many cases the treatment would focus on maintaining or improving range of motion, ice and heat, ultrasound, mobilizations or manipulations, exercises for strengthening, and normalizing function.

Shoulder pain is a complex issue that can be caused from many different sources. If you are experiencing shoulder pain you should see your physician or physiotherapist to help get an accurate diagnoses and hopefully minimize the effects of the problem.


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