For many, frozen shoulder isn’t a condition they know about or have even experienced. Frozen shoulder treatment can be painful and risky, making it a difficult condition to live with.
This shoulder issue typically occurs in people aged between 40 and 60 years. It’s most common in women and patients suffering from diabetes. Roughly 3% of Americans experience it (1).
What is Frozen Shoulder?
Like its name suggests, frozen shoulder is characterized by stiffness, pain, and limited range of movement in your shoulder. (2) Ortho Info explains:
“Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle).
The head of the upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade. Strong connective tissue, called the shoulder capsule, surrounds the joint.
To help your shoulder move more easily, synovial fluid lubricates the shoulder capsule and the joint.
In frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes tight. Stiff bands of tissue — called adhesions — develop. In many cases, there is less synovial fluid in the joint.”(3)
See also: Reversing diabetes Type-2
Frozen shoulder typically occurs in three stages:
- Freezing, or painful stage: The pain gets progressively stronger and the shoulder becomes stiff. Movements worsen pain and become harder and harder to accomplish. Also, the pain may worsen at night. This stage lasts 6-9 months.
- Frozen (adhesive) stage: Pain either stays constant or improves. The shoulder gets increasingly stiff and its range of motion is severely limited, making daily life difficult. This stage lasts 4-6 months.
- Thawing stage: Movement of the shoulder begins to improve and pain fades. It may occasionally return during and after healing. At the end of this 6-month stage, strength and motion should return to normal, although it can take up to 2 years for a full recovery.
What Causes Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is often caused by injury or overuse. Tissues around the shoulder swell, thicken, and stiffen, often accompanied by scar tissue. This severely limits joint mobility and causes pain.
Frozen shoulder causes include:
- Surgery or injury
- Old Age
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes
Conditions that increase frozen shoulder risk include:
- Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid
- Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid
- Cardiovascular disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Frozen shoulder is diagnosed by basic pressure tests performed by your doctor. If the condition is severe, you may require an x-ray or MRI.
Frozen Shoulder Treatment
If you suffer from frozen shoulder, here are a few things you can do to speed up your recovery process.
1. Hot or Cold Compression
It’s not much of an exercise but alternating between hot and cold packs will help blood flood to your shoulder to reduce pain and swelling. While this is a great way to reduce pain in the short-term, hot and cold therapy should be paired with the following stretches and exercises for lasting relief.
2. Pendulum Stretch
This an excise is a great way to start your stretching routine.
- Stand on near a table with your shoulders relaxed.
- Turn to bring your healthy shoulder near the table, resting your hand on the table.
- Lean over the table slightly, hanging your affected arm towards the ground.
- Swing the affected arm side to side and in small circles, doing 10 circles in each direction.
Read more: high intensity exercise improves insulin production
3. Armpit Stretch
You’ll stretch tissues you didn’t even know you had!
- Stand near a chest-high self and use your good arm to rest your affected arm on the shelf, bending it backward at the elbow.
- Gently bend your knees to open up your armpit.
- Slowly release your knees to return to the standing position.
- Repeat 10-20 times, getting a deeper stretch with every knee bend.
4. Forward Flexion Exercise
This exercise is easy and really improves mobility.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms by your side.
- Use your healthy arm to lift your affected shoulder above your head. Do not over stretch.
- Hold for 15 seconds and gently release.
- Relax and repeat.
5. Crossover Arm Stretch
You’ve probably already done this exercise at the gym!
- Stand tall with your arms by your side.
- Place your affected arm out in front of you.
- Use your healthy arm to reach just above the elbow of the affected arm and gently pull it in towards your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds, rest, and repeat.
Alternatively, cross your affected arm over your chest, touching your healthy shoulder with your affected hand. Use your healthy arm to push the affected elbow towards your healthy shoulder until you feel a stretch.