Adhesive capsulitis is an unpleasant condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint; it is most commonly referred to as ‘frozen shoulder’. It can be debilitating, causing severe pain and restricting movement in the entire shoulder area. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is uncertain, but it is often brought on by a trauma such as an injury or disease.
Symptoms include a burning or prickling sensation, intense pain and inflammation of the joint. Sufferers may also experience disturbed sleep as the pain tends to worsen during periods of inactivity. Restricted mobility is the key indicator of the condition and sufferers will often have difficulty in performing everyday tasks such as throwing, lifting or reaching.
The good news for those experiencing frozen shoulder is that the condition tends to be self-limiting and does not normally need corrective surgery. There are also several treatment options available to ease discomfort and speed up recovery time (without treatment it can last up to 2 years). We have listed some of the most popular treatment options available to restore full movement to your shoulder and eradicate pain from the area.
If your shoulder has become locked due to stiffness, it is important to keep the joint mobile by stretching and performing gentle movement exercises. A physiotherapist will manually manipulate the shoulder by massaging the soft tissue and moving the joint in multiple directions to help restore normal levels of movement.
A physiotherapist will also likely provide a sheet of shoulder exercises for the patient to complete at home. Common home exercises for frozen shoulder include passive arm lifts and swinging your arm back and forth in a gentle pendulum motion.
Physiotherapists may also apply a hot or cold compress to the area for pain relief and to reduce inflammation. This method can also significantly increase blood flow to the shoulder and improve circulation.
Osteopathy is also effective in treating frozen shoulder. It involves manipulating the pressure points surrounding the shoulder. Pressure applied by the osteopath is variable depending on the individual and the severity of the condition.
Osteopathic treatment for frozen shoulder will also likely extend to other areas of the body such as the neck, back and arms, as the underlying cause of shoulder pain may well extend outside of the localised area of pain. Your Osteopath should also analyse your posture and provide lifestyle advice to lessen the risk of reoccurrence in the future. Ongoing lifestyle management for frozen shoulder is particularly prevalent for those suffering from diabetes.
Some medical practitioners will recommend corticosteroid injections in the early stages of treatment for frozen shoulder. Corticosteroids are medicines designed to reduce pain and inflammation and are typically mixed with saline and anaesthetic and injected directly into the ball and socket.
Corticosteroids can provide instant pain relief, but they are only a short-term solution. After the medicine has worn off, the stiffness will remain, and corticosteroids can cause further damage to your shoulder if used long term. You should not exceed more than three injections over a course of treatment.
This ancient Chinese medicine may also provide targeted relief for frozen shoulder. By inserting the needles into the meridians or ‘pressure points’ the pain associated with frozen shoulder can be reduced to a more manageable level.
Acupuncture needles can stimulate the body’s nerves to release endorphins and provide natural pain relief. It also increases blood flow to the area of insertion which causes the body to self-heal at a faster rate.
Acupuncture may also help with other side effects associated with frozen shoulder such as the inability to get a good night’s sleep. As well as pain relief, acupuncture has a high success rate in relaxing patients and increasing melatonin production at night. Melatonin is a hormone produced by our bodies in the anticipation of darkness to assist with sleep.
Frozen shoulder is often a painful and lengthy disorder, but can be significantly eased with the treatment methods listed above. If you think you are suffering from frozen shoulder, it is important to seek out a diagnosis from a medical professional prior to treatment as many other shoulder conditions share similar symptoms.