Frozen shoulders affect around 3% of the population and are slightly more common in women. It restricts the movement in the shoulder joint. This is believed by some to be as a result of hormonal imbalances, with many women suffering from a frozen shoulder around the time of menopause. It also affects athletes.
What causes a frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder often occurs with no explanation. Some people may develop a frozen shoulder after a traumatic injury, but this is not always the case.
There are some factors that make suffering from a frozen shoulder more common. These include:
Shoulder trauma or surgery – if you have a shoulder injury frozen shoulder may occur, but not always. Surgery also increases the risk, especially if it is followed by a sustained period of joint immobilisation
Age and gender – You are most likely to suffer from a frozen shoulder between the ages of 40 and 60, and as previously mentioned, women are more prone to suffering from a frozen shoulder than men
Endocrine disorders – people who have diabetics or thyroid problems are particularly at risk from suffering from a frozen shoulder
Other systemic conditions – heart disease and Parkinson’s diseases have been associated with an increased risk of developing a frozen shoulder.
What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?
Pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint, pain at night when lying on the affected side and limited range of motion.
A frozen shoulder tends to have three ‘stages’ to it:
1. You will suffer some bad pain but will notice that you still have limited movement
2. The pain will ease off, but movement will become very limited
3. Finally the shoulder loosens up and returns to normal with full movement.
It can take between 12-18 months for all these phases to occur. In younger people who are active, the whole process can sometimes be reduced to as little as 10 – 12 weeks.
A frozen shoulder can be diagnosed on examination by a physiotherapist. An X-Ray is occasionally taken to confirm that there are no other problems or possible causes for the shoulder pain.
Exercises and stretching helps increase the motion in the joint and to minimise the loss of muscle. Exercise and stretching the affected shoulder is integral to ensure your shoulder returns to its normal functionality.
Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (always seek the advice of a medical professional)
Cortisone injections (used to decrease the inflammation in the frozen shoulder joint and help reduce pain. They also help allow more agility when stretching and exercising. Cortisone is more effective when used in conjunction with physiotherapy).