What is Frozen Shoulder?
‘Frozen Shoulder’, or to give it is correct medical term, ‘Adhesive Capsulitis’, is a very frustrating and debilitating condition that causes severe, painful restriction of motion in the shoulder joint. The shoulder stiffens and effectively freezes up.
Tissues in your joint become thicker and tighter and scar tissue develops over time. As a result, the shoulder joint doesn’t have enough space to rotate properly.
This is because the flexible capsule that lines the shoulder joint (where the bone of the upper arm meets the shoulder) becomes progressively stiffer instead of flexible. As the stiffness sets in, it becomes increasingly difficult, and painful, to move the arm. Ordinary movements like reaching into your back pocket, or doing up your bra can become impossible. In extreme cases, the person suffering from frozen shoulder may not be able to move their arm at the shoulder at all.
The human shoulder is extremely specialized and the most complicated joint of the body. The shoulder joint normally allows for a larger range motion than any other joint in the body.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
These are some of the most commonly reported Frozen Shoulder Symptoms:
- Shoulder pain – usually a dull, aching pain
- Pain when trying to sleep on the affected shoulder
- Limited movement of the shoulder with severe pain if it is moved beyond a certain range
- Difficultly with activities such as brushing teeth/hair or putting on shirts/doing up bra etc
Factors in the Development of Frozen Shoulder
A number of predisposing factors have been documented in people who have developed Frozen Shoulder.
The condition is more likely to occur in people between the ages of 40 and 60 and is more common in women (60%). About 35% of people develop frozen shoulder on both sides (commonly within 6-12 months of the first occurrence). The frozen shoulder is most often the non-dominant side (e.g. the left shoulder for right-handed people). The condition affects around 3% of the population.
- Others at risk include:
- Diabetics (five times more common)
- People in shoulder slings for a long period after an injury or surgery
- Sedentary people (often due to a recent stroke or surgery)
- People with thyroid disorders
- People who have had breast reconstruction surgery
- Genetics i.e. it can run in the family
- Patients with Dupytren’s contracture
This condition affects not only the physiology of the shoulder but also a person’s neurological functioning – or the way in which the brain communicates to the shoulder to allow movement. Basically, the brain fails to communicate the muscle stimulation needed to move the arm, as it detects an injury and over-reacts.
Frozen Shoulder Phases
There are 3 recognised phases to the condition:
- The freezing phase
This is the most painful part – often really debilitating. Movement of the arm in certain directions causes pain in the shoulder, which seems to get worse at night. Lying on the affected arm becomes difficult if not impossible, and so may disrupt your sleep.
Typically the freezing phase lasts 2-9 months.
- The frozen phase
During the frozen phase, movement of the arm in certain directions won’t be possible (or if it is possible, it won’t go very far). Rotating the arms outwards is often the most difficult, though all arm movement may be affected. The good news is that the pain is likely to go away, or at least subside dramatically.
The frozen phase usually lasts 4-12 months.
- The thawing phase
Eventually, the problem will probably sort itself out and full range of movement will likely return, pain-free. The thawing can be gradual though and it could be a long time until full movement is restored.
The thawing phase can take between 1 and 4 years until nearly-normal movement is returned.
Recovery from frozen shoulder following traditional treatment can take anywhere from 9 – 30 months. This would be life altering if for example you were engaged in manual work or involved in physically demanding sports. Such a long recovery period can also have a negative impact on the state of a person’s mental health.
Treating Frozen Shoulder with Trigenics®
There is now a new treatment option available which may be right for you.
Trigenics® is a multimodal neurological treatment system which resets the way the brain communicates with the body to:
- increase strength
- increase range of movement
- decrease pain measurably and immediately
One of our Senior Physiotherapists, Linley Leuthard, is a fully Registered Trigenics® practitioner and Certified International Trigenics® Instructor . Linley spent extensive time studying Trigenics ® in Australia, Europe, New Zealand and Canada from 2010.
In particular she studied a ground-breaking technique for Frozen shoulder which was created by Dr Allan Oolo Austin. Linley uses Trigenics® for many conditions and it is a major component of her treatment for frozen shoulder/adhesive capsulitis.
Linley has had incredible results with clients for the last seven years including the following case study:
A patient who had frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) plus other injuries that impeded progress after a bad cycling accident came to Linley for treatment. Through use of the highly effective Trigenics® treatment and other modalities he responded well and was able to return to go back to work after 3.5 months.
This was an amazing result as he was expected to be away from work for 18 – 24 months.
On-going Shoulder Care
Our article ‘Summer Shoulder Care’ from last year is still relevant and has lots of information on what you can do to protect your shoulders this summer as well as some basic exercises. Click here to go to the article and find out more.
Find out more
To contact Linley Leuthard in our Melville branch, please email [email protected] or Phone (07) 843 2267.