What is Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder occurs when the connective tissues in the shoulder joint and surrounding area become damaged or inflamed resulting in a loss of movement in the area. This injury is common amongst athletes who do not allow an adequate resting period between activity leading to excessive strain on the soft tissue over time. This injury can also arise after an athlete has undergone a significant period of rest after an injury without performing any stretching or strengthening activities to keep the area strong and flexible.
Frozen Shoulder Symptoms
Due to the nature of the injury, the symptoms of frozen shoulder will usual appear gradually overtime. Patients will usually feel pain and tenderness in the shoulder and often the arm, back and neck which becomes more apparent when activity is resumed which puts strain on the shoulder such as lifting heavy objects.
The symptoms of frozen shoulder tend to appear in three phases –
- Freezing stage – When frozen shoulder is first sustained, it is at its most painful and motion is beginning to feel restricted. This usually lasts 6-12 weeks.
- Frozen stage – At this stage the pain begins to ease however movement becomes even more limited and patients can be left with this sensation for up to 6 months.
- Thawing stage – in the final stage, the mobility of the shoulder begins to reappear and pain gradually disappears. This stage can often last more than a year.
Frozen Shoulder Diagnosis
Diagnosis of frozen shoulder is usually carried out by a doctor or physiotherapist who will examine the area before diagnosing the injury. It is also common for a doctor to carry out an ultrasound or MRI to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out any further complications.
Frozen Shoulder Treatment
In order to treat frozen shoulder injury, rest is crucial so to not damage the soft tissue any further and to stay away from any activity that could aggravate the shoulder or cause any pain or discomfort to the area. Continuing any strenuous activity or resuming sport will not only hinder the healing process, it could lead to further damage to the injury and surrounding tissue.
Applying ice to the area is also an important aspect of recovery as it will minimize any swelling and inflammation of the area. Following the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) when the injury first occurs and within the following 72 hours will ensure no further damage is caused to the area and prevent any further swelling of the injury which may come from resuming activity. Anti-Inflammatory medications may be taken to relive the pain of the injury and also to minimize any swelling.
A strengthening program may also be advised by a physiotherapist to keep the area strong and ensure flexibility once the injury had healed. This should not be done without professional advice as a patient can run the risk of aggravating the area and increase the healing process. In the final stages of recovery and in the first few months of returning to training, stretching exercises to the quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles may be performed to keep the area stable and strong and can also help prevent the injury reoccurring.