Frozen Shoulder

Decreased Motion, Chronic Pain and loss of function from Frozen Shoulder

What is a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder.  Hallmark signs are inability to sleep and perform simple tasks with the arm.

How does it occur?

A frozen shoulder may occur after a minor or major injury that does not allow you to move your shoulder for a period of time.  Typically, after an injury, the capsule surrounding the shoulder becomes stiff due to developing scar tissue or adhesions around the joint.  It can sometimes develop for no known reason.  This can occur over the course of weeks, months, or years.

What are the symptoms?

You will be unable to move your shoulder as you normally could.  You may be unable to reach above your head or behind your back.  Movement can be very painful.  Inability to wash your hair, scratch you back, put on a coat, reach your seatbelt, change clothes easily and most importantly almost all patients report the loss of ability to sleep.

How is it diagnosed?

X-rays of your shoulder will be taken, and a thorough history and physical exam can diagnose frozen shoulder.  An MRI may be ordered to further diagnose soft tissue pathology in the shoulder.  In many cases, it is not difficult to diagnose; most patients suffer 6-12 months before seeking treatment.

How is it treated?

Conservative treatment is tried first. This consists of exercises (either at home or with a physical therapist), anti-inflammatory medications, or possibly steroid injections.  Ice four times a day for 20 minutes is also helpful for shoulder pain.

If conservative treatment fails, surgery is an option.  This can range from manipulation under general anesthesia to arthroscopic surgery to release the tissue.  This is done as a same day surgery; patients rarely stay overnight.  The procedure itself takes about 30 minutes with an average time in an ambulatory surgery center of 4 hours total.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery varies based on the extent of the condition and the individual patient’s healing process.  Most patients wear a sling for 24 hours after surgery.  After that, they remove the sling and start immediate aggressive stretching exercises to get that released tissue stretched and flexible.  You will be instructed on Phase I exercises, which you will do at home three times a day for 2 weeks.  We will evaluate you at your 2-week follow-up appointment and give you Phase II exercises.  We may advise you at that time to see a physical therapist, however, most of our patients have a full recovery with the simple home exercise program developed by Dr. Bramlett.  Most patients can resume light duty 3-7 days after surgery for the next few weeks, with full recovery to normal activities over the course of the next 3 months.

We are here to help. If you believe you are suffering from one of these conditions, we would love to deliver a diagnosis, get you treated and get you moving again.

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