May 16, 2022

Dealing with the daily pains of a frozen shoulder

Perhaps one morning you wake up with soreness in your shoulder and just pass it off as “sleeping on it wrong.” Later that week, the pain increases and you try not to use that arm. By the next week, you can hardly move that arm and shoulder without pain. You have a frozen shoulder.

What do you do now? How long will it last? We asked Seth Morgan, PA-C, a certified physician assistant with The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, to answer a few of the questions he hears from orthopedic patients.

What causes a frozen shoulder?

“Frozen shoulder is most often caused when tissues surrounding the shoulder joint, called the ‘capsule,’ become inflamed,” said Morgan. “Once inflamed, the capsule then tightens and restricts a patient’s movement due to scarring. It is unknown as to exactly why this capsule of the shoulder becomes inflamed, though injuries to the shoulder and subsequent immobilizations can often contribute to the diagnosis.”

Can anyone get a frozen shoulder?

“Though this condition can affect anyone, from children to adults, people over the age of 40 are more prone to developing a frozen shoulder, with women more likely to develop it than men.”

What injuries develop a frozen shoulder?

“Injuries that limit the mobility of the shoulder can predispose someone to develop a frozen shoulder,” said Morgan. “These injuries include fractures of the arm and collar bone, rotator cuff injuries, strokes and other surgeries where arm movement is restricted. We also see frozen shoulder more prevalent in individuals with certain systemic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and thyroid dysfunction.”

Is a frozen shoulder permanent?

“Frozen shoulder is a temporary condition that left untreated will eventually resolve on its own. However, this can take anywhere from several months to years. Because of the pain and daily dysfunction this causes for patients, medical treatment is desired early in the process.”

Can exercises heal and prevent a frozen shoulder?

“Range of motion exercises of the shoulder joint help to not only treat this diagnosis but can prevent its onset. Maintaining a full and complete range of motion at the shoulder joint is essential for treatment and prevention. These include forward flexion, abduction, internal and external rotation.”

Before exercising, take a warm shower or bath to warm up the shoulder. You can also use a heating pad.

As shown in the photo above, use your good arm to lift your affected arm at the elbow. Raise it up and stretch it across your body while exerting gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and repeat it 10-20 times a day.

In another stretch, relax your shoulders and lean over the end of a table. Support your body with your good arm while letting your affected arm hang down. Rotate your affected arm clockwise for 10 small circles and then counter-clockwise for 10 circles. Do this once a day.

For more exercises, contact the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team at St. Francis Campus.

The Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team specializes in the prevention and management of all types of injuries affecting the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. To learn more about our services, visit our web page or call our office to make an appointment at (785) 233-7491.

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