Frozen Shoulder or Adhesive Capsulitis is an incredibly debilitating condition. It sneaks up on you like a cold. As sniffles have potential to make you a bed ridden, drippy nose, movie marathoner; frozen shoulder starts with a little ache and progressively restricts your range of motion to the point that brushing your hair becomes a challenge. Although this condition does heal on its own ( assuming you have the patience to wait 1-2 years and not mind occasional unilateral bad hair days), it is ideal to see a physical therapist as early on as possible.
As with all conditions, we physical therapists like to see you as soon as symptoms arise. Not a week, month, and certainly not a whole year after the fact. Truth is, the soon as we can take a peek and get our hands on your body to help resolve dysfunction, the faster you are back to doing the things you love. Frozen shoulder is the perfect example of how critical time is. But before we cover what WE can DO FOR YOU….lets review some basic background information so you can ask appropriate questions of us and your physician.
Who: Sorry ladies, you are far more likely to develop this condition than the fellas. The National Institute of Health reminds us that if you have diabetes that you have an increased risk of developing this condition due to excess glucose sticking to your cells and potentially damaging connective tissue. Other conditions such as autoimmune conditions, endocrine disorders, trauma and more can increase your risk as well.
What: Imagine you have plastic wrap in your shoulder holding all the goodies together. Now imagine that we headed it up enough that it melted and then it became hard and more rigid. The good news is, you have no such plastic in your body. Frozen shoulder/Adhesive Capsulitis is a tightening of the capsule surrounding the shoulder making movement more difficult.
Where: Adhesive capsulitis can occur in any joint with a capsule…Frozen shoulder is limited to that part of your body. With time and lack of treatment, this condition can result in adaptive or compensatory soft tissue tightness, other joints becoming sore, and overuse. For some folks, both shoulders can be affected at the same time or one right after the other.
When: This condition can happen at any time.
Medical Treatment: Typically your Doc will have you take an anti-inflammatory, possibly inject a corticosteroid into the joint, and in extreme cases surgery is performed to aid in release of the capsule. Some Docs also try to manipulate the joint while you are under anesthesia- essentially you are in la la land, while your doc body slams your shoulder, yanks, pulls, and “puts” your arm back where it “belongs”. Graphic, huh? (it is something to be avoided, but not a gruesome as my description suggests)
We want to get back and maintain as much range of motion in your shoulder and your shoulder blade as possible. Your daily function and quality of life is our priority. The most effective treatment for this is manual or hands on mobilization of the joint. Mobilization has been shown to improve pain and function 50% more than exercise instruction alone.
Our goals typically include:
Restoring Range of Motion
Resolution of PAIN
Improved Mechanics of The Shoulder
No Functional Limitations…whatsoever!
Each of your amazing bodies deals with these types of issues differently. You also all uniquely heal and respond to treatment. The beautiful part of physical therapists is that we are equip with a gargantuan “bag of tricks” to help us reach our goals sooner rather than later. At Core Wellness for example, we might integrate trigger point dry needling, postural restoration techniques and joint mobilization…its all based on our findings and what your body tells us it needs as we progress.
If you or someone you know is complaining of aches and pains in their shoulder or any other nook and cranny of their body…please, take the time to encourage them to see a medical professional and snuff out issues early in the game.
Cheers to frozen strawberry-banana smoothies, NOT SHOULDERS.
Elizabeth L. Polis PT, DPT