If you’ve experienced shoulder pain, you know it can be one of the most debilitating forms of pain. A painful shoulder can make everyday tasks like picking up a cup to sleeping seem impossible. The dull toothache feeling of chronic inflammation in a shoulder is enough to make just about anyone go mad. Sometimes, as ongoing shoulder pain prevents someone from using his or her shoulder, the condition can turn into a disease called frozen shoulder.
- Adults of 40-60 years of age
- Those with diabetes
Frozen shoulder most often occurs in a 3-step process.*
- Freezing (6 weeks– 9 months): This phase begins with progressing tightness in the shoulder capsule as the tendons that comprise the shoulder movers become more stiff, scar tissue forms, and the amount of synovial fluid(lubricant for your shoulder joint) decreases. The freezing stage is typically the most painful stage.
- Frozen (4-6 months): The shoulder capsule is extremely tight making daily activities very difficult. However, the pain experienced in the “freezing” stage is less severe.
- Thawing (6 months – 2 years): The stiffness and pain in the shoulder slowly recede as daily activities become easier to complete.
As you can tell, recovery from a frozen shoulder is no quick fix.
Treatment, as always, begins conservative and progresses from there if treatments prove ineffective. The first stage of treatment involves the use of anti-inflammatory medications and gentle range of motion exercises. If this doesn’t do the trick, your doctor may recommend formal physical therapy for an extended period of time, a cortisone injection, or possibly an injection of sterile water into the shoulder capsule to help stretch the area, a process called joint distension. Normally, these treatments, along with time, do the trick. In special situations, surgery may be the last and only option left. If this is the case, consider the amount of treatments and time you’ve spent rehabbing your shoulder. Obtaining a second opinion may be beneficial as well.
Washington Orthopaedic Center’s physicians have over 40 years of experience treating frozen shoulders with great success. If you’ve been facing debilitating shoulder pain and immobility for an extended period of time, an orthopedic consultation with one of our four providers who treat frozen shoulder may provide an answer to your mysterious shoulder condition. Allow us to provide the tools you need to thaw your shoulder by giving us a call at (360) 736-2889 to set up your first consultation.
*Timeline according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons