Frozen Shoulder: What It Is and The Treatments Available

Rearview shot of a woman suffering from a shoulder pain

Movement is an important part of everyone’s life. Not only do we move to get exercise, but it also affects everything in our bodies. From metabolism to circulation, it is undeniably a vital part of our general well-being. 

While many different health problems can restrict our movement, one particular condition is overlooked and disregarded until it affects our movement and gives us unbearable pain. Let’s learn how a Frozen shoulder develops, its symptoms, and what you can do to ease the pain and get your movement back.

So what is a frozen shoulder? Also called adhesive capsulitis, it is a condition that produces muscle spasms in the shoulder joint. It is characterized by symptoms that appear gradually, intensify with time, and then disappear, which can occur within one to three years. Nerve damage happens when the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint expands and tightens, making mobility impossible. 

In case you are recovering from a medical illness/surgery that prevents you from moving your arms, such as a stroke or mastectomy, you are more likely to develop this condition. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens to certain people, but it has been commonly seen in people with diabetes or those who previously had it. This condition rarely recurs in the same shoulder, but it might occur in the other shoulder in certain patients. 

Stages of Development

Frozen shoulder usually develops gradually and in three stages. Each stage can last several months.

  • Freezing – This phase can last from 6 to 9 months, wherein any movement of your shoulder creates pain, and your range of motion becomes limited. This is a progressive stage wherein the pain gets worse and gets severe at night;
  • Frozen – During this time, pain may begin to subside, but the stiffness gets worse. This phase lasts for 4 to 12 months, wherein your shoulder becomes harder to move, it affects your daily activities;
  • Thawing – In this stage, your shoulder’s range of motion begins to improve and goes back to normal. This can take six months up to 2 years.

Risk Factors

The following are those who are at high risk of having a frozen shoulder:

  • People over 40, especially women;
  • Injuries to the shoulder like rotator cuff injury, tendonitis, or bursitis;
  • Those who have suffered a stroke;
  • People recovering from surgery;
  • Those with diseases such as Diabetes, Thyroid hyperactivity (hyperthyroidism), Thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism), Cardiovascular diseases, Tuberculosis, and Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s.

Treatments

Pain and inflammation are major concerns in treating frozen shoulders, including getting the movement back. Here are some treatments are done for people with this condition:

Pain and Anti-inflammatory Medicines

Usually, over-the-counter medications help with the pain and inflammation caused by frozen shoulders. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen or Aspirin helps relieve the discomfort. When OTC medicines like these aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications. When oral medicines are no longer effective, your doctor may recommend an injection of corticosteroids and numbing medicines into the joint capsule;

Physical Therapy

Range-of-motion exercises improve frozen shoulder. This is why physical therapy is always a part of the treatment plan for this condition. Physical therapy sessions may last from one to six weeks, wherein a physical therapist supervises and assists you with exercises that help promote the range of motion and mobility to help you regain movement in your shoulder;

Surgery

Often done on frozen shoulders that are in stage 2, surgery is offered when other treatments did not help. This surgery is done by cutting through tight portions of the joint capsule with pencil-sized instruments;

Shoulder Manipulation Under General Anaesthesia

This treatment may be indicated in a small percentage of instances. This procedure is where surgeons would move the shoulder with force to help relax the joint capsule and allow it to move more freely. However, this kind of surgery includes a risk of complications, including fractures.

Home Exercises To Help with Frozen Shoulder

Stiff and frozen shoulders are usually uncomfortable. But aside from medical interventions, exercises regimen at home are usually helpful in treating this condition. However, bear in mind that it is essential to warm up your shoulder before performing any of these exercises. Here is some exercise that you can do:

  • Stretches;
  • Pendulum Stretch;
  • Towel Stretch;
  • Finger walk;
  • Crossbody reach;
  • Armpit stretch;
  • Strengthening;
  • Outward rotation;
  • Inward rotation.

Supplements That Help

CBD

Cannabidiol (usually referred to as CBD) is a hemp plant derivative. CBD is a cannabinoid like THC but does not have any psychoactive and intoxicating effects. CBD is available in various concentrations, from extra strength CBD oil to low potency tinctures and in many forms, including sprays, capsules, edibles and topical preparations such as CBD balms, lotions and patches. 

Many people use this compound as CBD is believed to have therapeutic benefits such as pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and sleep-regulating properties. According to preliminary studies, CBD may help manage frozen shoulders due to its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a famous spice in Indian cooking as well as in the Indian Medicinal practice of Ayurveda. This root is abundant in curcumin which is its active ingredient that is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, which can be beneficial in people who are suffering from frozen shoulders. It is also known for providing other health benefits that may improve arthritis, anxiety, cancer, and heart health. Turmeric can be taken as tea, mixed with milk, or as a supplement in capsule form. Studies also suggest that taking turmeric with black pepper or piperine aids its absorption.  

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids or commonly known as fish oil, are famous for their benefits in cardiovascular health. These fatty acids not only help decrease the risk of arrhythmias and triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and slow the growth rate of fatty plaque in the arteries, but they also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help treat conditions with chronic inflammation like frozen shoulder. While consuming food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, seafood, nuts, and plant oils, fish oil capsules or soft gels are also available in the market. 

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is known as a naturally occurring compound in the fluid around our joints. According to studies, glucosamine can help not only with pain relief but with inflammation as well. In frozen shoulders, this compound can help with pain, swelling, and stiffness. While glucosamine can be acquired from certain foods, there are commercially prepared supplements that are synthetic; there are also supplements that are extracted from shellfish. If you are allergic to shellfish, caution is advised.

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Categories: Health

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 10 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. All my ideas come from my very active lifestyle, every day I ask myself hundreds of questions to doctors, specialists, and physicians. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. In all my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. I believe that any information should be free, we want to know more every day because we learn every day. Most of our medical sources come from Canada.ca and government research. You can contact me on our forum or by email at info@sind.ca.

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