If you are experiencing pain and stiffness in your shoulder, it is possible that you are suffering from frozen shoulder. 

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition that results in an extremely painful and stiff shoulder. The good news is that it can be treated even though it’s a difficult road filled with ups and downs. Frozen shoulder is considered self limiting yet the time frame of leaving it to its own recovery is around 2 years. Physiotherapy can help provide pain relief and help to reduce the time frame of each of the major stages of frozen shoulder.

Some of the classic early signs of frozen shoulder include limited range of motion overhead and to the side, and especially that of external rotation. Exquisite tenderness is usually found in  a region of the shoulder called the rotator interval. Patients almost always describe being unable to sleep on the sore shoulder. X-Rays are often negative although sometimes we see calcium deposits in the rotator cuff tendons that may contribute to the onset of this complex condition. 

In this blog post, we will describe what frozen shoulder is and how it can be treated. We will also highlight the benefits of physiotherapy and how Parkway Physiotherapy & Performance Centre can help you get back to your normal activities as quickly and safely as possible.

What is Frozen Shoulder and Causes of Pain

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), is a condition where the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful due to infiltration of scar or fibrous tissue into the capsule of the joint.

The exact causes of frozen shoulder are still unclear, but it often occurs after a period of immobilization or injury to the shoulder. We frequently find a history of injury to the shoulder, even though the injury itself can be minor such as “reaching the wrong way” or severe such as a shoulder fracture. We also typically find dysfunctions in the neck that accompany frozen shoulder. 

Other potential contributors of frozen shoulder include underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, or heart disease. Pain related to frozen shoulder is typically experienced in the shoulder joint and can be severe, especially in the early stages of the condition. Due to these contributing factors some doctors will refine the diagnosis of frozen shoulder to primary or secondary. It’s common to consider frozen shoulder in the three stages of: freezing, frozen and thawing. 

Frozen shoulder biomechanics reveals that the scar tissue adhesions in the shoulder, constrict the joint capsule and this leads to less fluid volume in the shoulder along with the profound pain and stiffness that are the hallmarks of the condition. 

As therapists, we work with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that address the underlying causes of frozen shoulder and that help to rehabilitate the shoulder and to alleviate pain and stiffness. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial for the successful management of this condition.

frozen shoulder adhesive capsulitis

Benefits of Physiotherapy for Frozen Shoulder

While it can be frustrating to deal with, the good news is that physiotherapy can be a highly effective treatment option.

A physiotherapist can tailor a treatment plan specifically to your needs, helping to mobilize the shoulder capsule and strengthen the muscles around the affected joint. This can not only reduce pain and improve mobility, but it can also prevent further damage and reduce joint inflammation which can speed up the healing process. 

So, if you’re struggling with frozen shoulder, don’t suffer in silence – talk to someone from the physiotherapist team at Parkway today and discover the numerous benefits of this evidence-based treatment approach.

The Role of Manual Therapy in Relieving Symptoms

As a physiotherapist, I have seen firsthand the impact that manual therapy can have on relieving a variety of symptoms. 

Manual therapy, which includes techniques such as joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization, can offer a variety of benefits: 

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve range of motion
  • Improve shoulder joint nutrition
  • Reducing painful muscle knots or trigger points
  • Mobilize stiff areas around the shoulder that contribute to poor biomechanics
  • Improve neck function which will also improve nerve function to the shoulder muscles

While manual therapy is just one tool in a physiotherapist’s toolkit, it can be highly effective in providing relief and improving overall quality of life for those suffering from frozen shoulder.

A Guide to Post-Physiotherapy Care for Frozen Shoulder

Post-physiotherapy care is an essential part of the recovery process for anyone who has undergone physiotherapy treatment. 

During physiotherapy, patients often work tirelessly to regain lost function and mobility, which can be exhausting. 

One of the interventions that some physicians will suggest is a corticosteroid injection of the shoulder. There is some evidence that this can help with shoulder pain and may also allow for more therapy work to be done during your physio sessions.

Post-treatment care should focus on gradually increasing physical activity while maintaining a restorative and healing environment. Exercise itself is not only to improve shoulder strength and range of motion, it is also important to encourage shoulder joint nutrition and as such very gentle movements can still be extremely beneficial.  Working on the other side of the body from the involved shoulder and working above and below the frozen shoulder are also immensely helpful. In addition, patients need to focus on nutrition, hydration, and adequate sleep to provide their body with the necessary fuel to heal and to reduce inflammation. 

With the right mindset and proper care, patients can continue to progress and live a healthy and active life.

frozen shoulder pain

Tips for Prevention and Management of Frozen Shoulder Pain

Since we are still not entirely sure what causes frozen shoulder it is somewhat difficult to say how to prevent it. Of course a strong and healthy shoulder joint is less likely to get into trouble and so we advise good posture, a strong, mobile neck and shoulder girdle, and good nutritional habits that keep inflammation in the body controlled.

However, if you do experience frozen shoulder pain, early intervention is crucial. 

Seek care from a therapist who can help you with gentle exercises to prevent further stiffness and reduce your pain. Treatment will usually be directed to your spine as well as to the shoulder joint and scapular muscles.

In conclusion, frozen shoulder is a common condition that can cause significant pain due to increased muscle tension and decreased joint range of motion. 

Physiotherapy is an important part of the treatment process and involves manual therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, shoulder joint mobilizations and neck care, along with advice on post-therapy care such as avoiding positions and movements that will likely exacerbate symptoms. 

Additionally, there are tips for prevention and management of frozen shoulder pain that can be used long term such as maintaining good postures during your work, using heat or cold therapy where appropriate and limiting certain shoulder exercises. Ultimately, proper management of this condition requires the collaboration between experienced therapists and patients in order to develop an effective plan of action for recovery.



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