Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a long term painful and stiffness condition. Experts believe that the earlier appropriate treatment you take – the better prognosis of the problem. Some effective treatments are available. However in severe cases, surgery may be recommended – does it really work?
The good news, it is treatable and even curable. As mentioned before, there are some effective treatments to choose from. The problem may even go away without treatment, but it usually takes many more months or even years to heal!
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The bad news, the inflammation that affects the capsule of connective tissue surrounding the shoulder can be painful enough to affect your daily routines. Even frozen shoulder is one of the most painful joint conditions.
It has 3 main stages; freezing phase (stage I), frozen ‘adhesive’ phase (stage II), and thawing ‘recovery’ phase (stage III). Each stage of the disease progresses slowly. Therefore, frozen shoulder can take so long to heal.
But how long it takes to heal can vary from patient to patient. Here is in-depth information about this issue!
Easing the underlying inflammation is one of main goals in treating adhesive capsulitis. Another goal is to prevent the affected should from getting stiff. See also the chance for frozen shoulder to recur in this section!
In general, the treatment options are divided into two main categories; non-surgical and surgical treatments. And the first choice is non-surgical options. In other words, surgical treatments are the second option.
The first stage can be so painful (it is the most painful stage). Since the pain symptoms are the most intense in this phase, the treatment is usually more focused to relieve the pain.
Common suggestions to ease the pain include:
- Avoid certain movements that can worsen the pain, especially such as stretching. However, it’s also recommended to remain active and mobile as much as you could. In other words, you don’t need to stop moving altogether!
- The use of pain relievers. These can include painkillers (such as paracetamol, NSAIDs, or codeine) and corticosteroid injections (this option is usually used when the conventional painkillers are not helpful enough to control and ease the pain).
As the pain eases in the end of the first stage, stiffness increases gradually in the later stages. Stiffness can be severe enough to make you lose the function of your shoulder (you cannot move it at all).
Since stiffness can be serious, exercise and physiotherapy are other main treatments. These are required in all stages of the disease, especially during adhesive and recovery phases (stage II and stage III).
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When your shoulder range of motion is limited, you tend to become inactive. But not using your shoulder joint is more likely to make the symptoms (especially stiffness) worsen.
So again, it’s important to keep your shoulder active as much as you could with gentle, regular stretching exercises.
Sometimes the stiffness in the shoulder can be painful when you exercise. For this case, talk to your physiotherapist and doctor! They may give some simple exercises that won’t hurt your shoulder. Then you can increase types and intensity of your exercise as the problem improves.
The goal of this therapy is to help improve the flexibility and movement of the shoulder. It can use numerous of different techniques to help improve the affected shoulder joint in adhesive capsulitis. This can include:
- Heat and cold therapy.
- Stretching exercises with a number of different techniques.
Overall, the treatment plan will be evaluated along with the progression of the disease. For better prognosis, the treatment should be based on an evaluation by your doctor, physical therapist, and individualized for you!
The surgical options are not common in treating this joint condition. However in a few cases, it may be required when other treatments (non-surgical options) fail to work.
Typically, surgery is suggested when there is no improvement about 6 months after taking other treatments. But does it work? Is it worth a try?
The answer may vary. And the decision of using surgery should be evaluated in case-by-case basis.
The answer may also be dependent on the severity of the problem and the kind of surgery you take. Each method has drawbacks, and your doctor should completely explain about this issue before you take the treatment.
The following are common types of surgery for frozen shoulder: