What is Frozen Shoulder?
Frozen shoulder, or “adhesive capsulitis”, is a poorly understood condition. We have an idea about what happens, but it has a mind of its own. It’s usually in females over 40 and comes and goes as it pleases. It may follow a recent trauma to the shoulder or a recent surgery. You may be a diabetic, which is known to be a risk factor. Either way, it’s a really painful condition and can severely limit your function. You have a hard time moving your shoulder in any direction and it HURTS!! We’ll let you in on a little secret here, and our fellow physical therapists will hate us, but DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH A TON OF THERAPY ON THIS! Go to therapy once a week for a few weeks (or look at this site) for exercises to do at home. Don’t let them give you hot packs, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound – useless and a waste of money. Some manual therapy or joint mobilizations (again, not high speed thrust stuff) may help a little, but ultimately, you need time. You need exercises to “fight back” and not let it get worse, but really, it heals when it wants to. You can lock 10 people in a room with frozen shoulder and tell them to come out when their shoulder works again. Everyone will come out between two weeks and three years. That’s just how it works. Frozen shoulder is not a strength issue at the outset, so don’t do a lot of strengthening. You need to keep the motion you have and prevent further deterioration.
Frozen shoulder is a frustrating condition, no doubt about it. There are many proposed interventions – injections, manipulations in the operating room, etc. There just isn’t anything that is “tried and true.” Sure, there will be pundits that swear by one way, but they don’t see these people in rehab like we do! Be diligent with your exercises, be patient, and resume life as best as you can. Don’t let this become your identity or you’ll be miserable.
Here are some helpful pictures…