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Specialized Physical Therapy for Frozen Shoulders


April 5, 2017

Frozen shoulder, which is also known as adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by pain and stiffness that eventually worsens to the point where it becomes difficult to move the shoulder. It affects around 2% of the U.S. population, but fortunately, it can be treated with specialized physical therapy.  Here’s what you need to know about this painful condition:

How does frozen shoulder occur?

It is believed that frozen shoulder develops when you stop using the joint in your shoulder regularly. For example, if you are recovering from surgery and have limited mobility, you may develop frozen shoulder. Learn more about frozen shoulder.

Who does it affect?

Anyone who is recovering from a serious injury or surgery could develop frozen shoulder. Individuals with diabetes are also at a much higher risk of suffering from frozen shoulder, but researchers have not been able to identify a link between the two conditions.

What are the symptoms?

If you are experiencing dull pain in your shoulder that gradually gets worse over time and hurts more when you try to move your arm, you may have frozen shoulder.

The first stage of frozen shoulder is known as the “freezing” stage. During this stage, you slowly lose range of motion in your shoulder and begin to experience a great deal of pain. Next comes the “frozen” stage where the joint becomes stiff and difficult to move. This stage usually lasts for about four months, and is followed by the “thawing” stage, which can occur when you seek treatment. During the thawing stage, you will slowly begin to regain strength in your shoulder and the pain will eventually subside.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

In order to get to the thawing stage of this condition, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms. A doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatories, receiving steroid injections, and of course, attending physical therapy on a regular basis.

A physical therapist will create a customized plan to treat your frozen shoulder. A typical plan will include heat therapy to loosen the muscles before you begin a series of stretches that are designed to increase your range of motion and “thaw” you frozen shoulder. Physical therapists will be able to guide you through the motions and adjust your body as needed to ensure you don’t injure yourself further.

Can it be prevented?

Some cases, such as those linked to patients with diabetes, cannot be prevented. However, if you’ve suffered an injury or have recently had surgery, it’s wise to talk to a physical therapist about preventing frozen shoulder. A physical therapist can show you how to stretch out the shoulder area to prevent it from freezing and causing you pain. Because frozen shoulder can leave you in pain for years, it’s best to take action early and try to prevent it instead of waiting to see a physical therapist once you have already developed the condition.

At Cherry Creek Wellness Center, we are devoted to helping our patients prevent and treat pain. Are you interested in learning more about our services?  Contact us today by calling 303-333-3493 to reach a member of our helpful staff!