Written by Weijia Xu, pht.

Adhesive capsulitis, also referred to as Frozen Shoulder, is a condition that affects shoulder joint and causes pain and stiffness around the shoulder. Although the causes of frozen shoulder are unknown, there are some factors that may increase the risk of developing Frozen Shoulder such as diabetes, previous shoulder injuries, and immobilization of the shoulder because of a surgery or a fracture.

Shoulder joint is connected to the arm bone(humerus), the shoulder blade(scapula) and the collarbone(clavicula) with the tendons and muscles, and it is surrounded with the shoulder capsule which is a strong connective tissue that enables the shoulder a good flexibility.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes stiff and tight, and this tightness limits the movement of the shoulder. The symptoms typically start gradually and grow worse over time. It follows 3 stages:

Stage 1 – Freezing: To move the shoulder is painful due to its stiffness and the pain increases with time, especially the pain during the night which disturbs sleep is very common.
Stage 2 – Frozen: Pain may decrease during this stage, but the stiffness continues which complicates the daily tasks and activities.
Stage 3 –  Thawing: The symptoms lessen, and the shoulder begins to recover.

Adhesive capsulitis recovers by itself although it may take 9 months to 3 years to resolve. However, supporting this process with physical therapy accelerates the healing and the full functional recovery can be likely achieved. Therefore, a physical therapy treatment focuses 3 main things: the pain control, restoring the range of motion and strength.

The limitation of the movement of shoulder is one of the reasons that can cause neck pain. Applying a hot pack around the neck and shoulder can relieve the pain and it will allow you to perform some neck exercises more comfortably to prevent secondary problems associated with neck.

To restore the range of motion, daily shoulder stretching exercises must be performed so as to decrease the stiffness and increase the flexibility of the shoulder capsule. Physiotherapists can work manually to stretch your shoulder joint and teach the proper stretching techniques, provide a home exercise program, and help you strengthen your shoulder.

There are other things that you simply can do to reduce the pain and also the negative effects of this condition. Pain relievers can help you control the pain and provide more well-off sleep. Some people might develop postural asymmetry to compensate the pain. To avoid this, you should stand up straight during the movement of the shoulder and try not to lean on opposite side of your body as you lift your arm. Finally, while you are lying down, try to put your head in a neutral position by supporting your shoulder with a pillow next to your body.

Overall, frozen shoulder is a painful condition that affects your quality of life in a very negative way. To manage this process properly, our physiotherapists are here to assist you get your active and normal lifestyle back!

If you are suffering from shoulder pain, do not hesitate to contact with us! Our well-trained physiotherapists are here to help you!

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